How to Proofread a Novel


Proofreading a novel is a critical step in the writing process. This stage ensures your work is polished and free of errors, ready for readers to enjoy. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to proofread a novel effectively.

1. Take a Break

As counterintuitive as it might sound, avoid the impulse to immediately proofread and edit. After completing your manuscript, take a break before starting the proofreading process. This allows you to return to your work with fresh eyes, making it easier to spot errors and inconsistencies.

Think of it this way: You just created something creative — unique and daring. In contrast, proofreading and editing involves some critical analysis, and there’s always the chance that you squeeze the life out of your fresh manuscript.

Of course, if you want to speed things along, or if you’re in a hurry, you can always jump to step 10 — but taking a breath is always a good start.

2. Print Your Manuscript

Reading your novel on paper can help you notice mistakes that might be missed on a screen. Print your manuscript and use a highlighter or red pen to mark errors.

That said, a growing number of people today do not even own a printer. If that’s the case, or if you want to save money from printing, you can skip this step. 

At PaperBlazer, we edit documents on both iPads and computers, as different appearances of a text can affect how a person reads the text — which then affects proofreading and editing.

3. Read Aloud

Reading your novel aloud can help you catch awkward sentences, repetitive words, and other issues with flow and readability. This method also helps you hear the natural rhythm of your prose. 

Writers across the world recommend this as one of the most important steps. After all, if a book does not “sound good” when read aloud, it will not read as well in people’s minds. Think of it as testing out your future audiobook! 

4. Focus on One Element at a Time

Rather than trying to catch every type of error in one read-through, focus on one element at a time. Start with grammar and punctuation, then move on to spelling, and finally, look at formatting and consistency.

Proofreading can be an overwhelming task. It is why people use PaperBlazer rather than doing it on their own. Many hours can make a huge difference, but the reality is that often, it’s easier to work with a professional who is used to this kind of work.

5. Use Digital Tools

Leverage digital tools such as Microsoft’s spellchecker to catch errors and improve your writing. These tools can help identify common mistakes and suggest improvements. 

Keep in mind that all digital tools, including AI, have several downsides: (a) they still make errors; (b) they sometimes require a subscription fee; and (c) they can strip your personal voice.

6. Check for Consistency

Ensure consistency in character names, place names, and other details. Verify that your timeline is logical and that character traits and plot points remain consistent throughout the novel.

Keep in mind that with novels, some of this can be implied. How a character is developed can include things like metaphor, behavior, setting, etc., so a human reader is essential for this step. Artificial intelligence does not do an adequate job here, since interpretation is an organic task.

7. Look for Pacing and Flow

Assess the pacing and flow of your novel. Make sure each chapter transitions smoothly to the next, and that the narrative maintains a good pace. Cut unnecessary scenes or dialogue that do not advance the plot or develop characters.

In all likelihood, you will want pacing and flow to be similar throughout the text. For example, when we’ve reviewed novels for clients, we can tell when one chapter was written at a different time or place, since the style changed. We help writers smooth this out so there is coherence within the text, from chapter to chapter.

8. Review Dialogue

Ensure your dialogue sounds natural and is appropriate for each character. Check for proper punctuation and make sure each line of dialogue contributes to character development or the plot.

This is an area where PaperBlazer helps invaluably. Dialogue can seem great to the author, but to others, it can sometimes seem unnatural or forced. In many cases, dialogue can be “too perfect” (after all, dialogue often includes fragments) or too wordy, and in both of these cases, AI tools dramatically fail. Only a human editor can catch this. 

9. Get a Second Pair of Eyes

Having someone else read your manuscript can provide valuable feedback. Another person can catch errors you may have overlooked and offer a fresh perspective on your novel.

One recommendation is to start with a friend or relative. However, as our Executive Editor teaches in college courses, be careful to overly rely on those who love you — since they will often be biased. They will take care of your feelings (to not offend you), but they might not take care of your document. So it does not hurt to start here, but we strongly recommend that you do not stop here.

10. Hire a Professional Proofreader

For the best results, consider hiring a professional proofreader. Professional proofreaders have the expertise to catch subtle errors and ensure your novel is polished and ready for publication. At PaperBlazer, we offer expert proofreading services tailored to your needs.

Proofreading a novel is an essential step to ensure your work is the best it can be. By following these tips and dedicating time to carefully review your manuscript, you can confidently present your novel to the world.

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