Yes, I just coined the term “author blindness.” It’s that inability to catch errors in your manuscript because you’ve read it too many times. This phenomenon tends to manifest at the end of the editing process when the publisher has sent back your manuscript for review near the lock-down date. By this time you may have read your manuscript twenty, thirty, maybe fifty or more times.
I’ve found that during this phase my mind is telling me what I should be reading instead of what’s there. You know each passage so well that you read the first couple of words and your brain fills in the rest. You are “blind” to what’s actually on the page.
Many authors will combat author blindness by editing their novel on paper. As most authors will tell you, editing on paper is completely different than editing on screen. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because we more mature folks are used to reading in print. But even editing on paper wasn’t doing it for me. When I had my latest novel printed and in my hands, my brain said, “UGH! I have to read this AGAIN!?” I was already preparing to skim. When you’re making those final changes the last thing you want to do is skim.
So I decided to edit my manuscript backwards. It was a trick I used to do in high school when I was about to read a novel that I had no interest in, whatsoever. Not that my own novel is boring, per se, but after reading it fifty times…well, you know. In high school I found that reading a book backwards made it more interesting. Last chapter to first. Try it sometime, it really is fun. Not too different than watching a Quentin Tarantino movie.
So with my latest book, Taking the Rap, I had the manuscript printed and then proceeded to edit it in reverse, by chapter. Of course, I read the chapter itself forwards, but proceeded through the chapters from the Epilogue to the Prologue. And this is what happened:
1. I got to edit and revise the most exciting scenes first. It gives you an entirely new perspective on your novel when you start with your denouement and climax (THE BIG SCENE), motivating your brain into wanting to read the story again.
2. Your timeline is more obvious and you catch consistency mistakes. I had read my manuscript more than fifty times and never caught that an airline flight I depicted in one chapter was American Airlines and in the next Virgin Atlantic. Until I read it backwards. How could I have missed that glaring error? Author blindness.
3. You don’t skim. Working backwards tricks your mind into thinking it’s reading something new, so you approach it with a keener eye.
If you are an author, I encourage you to try this method the next time your brain bucks the Nth reading, and let me know if it works for you.