Proofing & publishing

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The moment has come. You've written a chapter! Possibly several chapters, if you're building up a buffer. It's all very exciting and I'm sure the only thing you're thinking about doing is uploading to Wattpad and hitting publish.

Alas, you still need to proof-read it. There's various approaches to this, depending on who and what you have available to you and your confidence in your own proofing capabilities. By this stage you might be dealing with a first draft, or a chapter which has already gone through numerous iterations and re-writes, depending on your particular writing style.

The quickest, easiest and cheapest way to proof your work and make sure it's up to your high quality standards is to re-read it yourself, right? Well, it never hurts to proof your own stuff but it's also one of the least reliable approaches. You already know your work inside-out, because it emerged from your mind. Some people think this makes authors ideal editors but that's a fallacy - being close to the work only makes it harder to spot errors, from simple typos and spelling mistakes to structural, style and plot problems.

It's the typos that really get me - the brain seems to have a built-in auto-correct which subconsciously adjusts the words on the page to what they should be, rather than what they are. This is why it's so hard to proof your own work, because your brain already has an embedded, perfect version of the text and it'll be overlaying that onto whatever messy reality actually exists. I worked as a copywriter for about ten years which gives me a slight edge when it comes to identifying errors but they still catch me out. Because the universe fully embraces irony, I'm sure this very chapter is chock full of mistakes.

Bringing in an external pair of eyes means they're coming at the words fresh, which causes mistakes to leap out from the screen. This is why the role of the editor exists in the first place. It's a defined skill, related but separate to the initial act of writing. You need to be able to find an editor who will be useful, though, which can be a challenge if you're an non-professional writer. Paying an editor to do the job is likely to be a remote concept if you're writing and publishing stuff for free on Wattpad. You also want to be cautious of anything which will create production bottlenecks when you're writing a serial, as that can throw your whole plan out of whack - don't hire an editor who is going to slow you down or be unreliable. Of course, your editor doesn't have to be a professional - by all means ask a friend or colleague to be a test reader, on the understanding that a) they have to be honest, b) you won't be offended by criticism and c) they have some experience of critical analysis.

Ultimately, at the very least always read your 'finished' chapter through at least once before publishing. Ideally read it in a brand new context - I write in Scrivener but often do my final proof in Wattpad's editor, because the change of font and line width helps me see the words through new eyes, obscuring that 'perfect version' which exists in my mind's eye.

Lastly, don't overlook your word processor's spellcheck. It's quick, simple and free and is great for the first pass where you'll spot all the silly typos.

As for the critical moment of publishing, the key thing is to identify a regular date (and, ideally, time) and stick to it. That way everyone knows when to expect a new chapter and can build it into their day. As you start to grow a following this will become increasingly important, and releasing unpredictably will cause some readers to get frustrated.

There are all kinds of theories about when is best to publish on Wattpad. Common thinking last time I checked was that publishing on a Friday works well in terms of how Wattpad's systems prioritise content - it also means that the chapter drops into people's inboxes at the start of the weekend, when they have the time to sit down and read without worrying about work/school/etc.

I published A Day of Faces on Monday evenings (UK time) because that suited my personal schedule and it didn't seem to actively hurt the book's popularity. This guide I've been publishing on Fridays, while my new serial The Mechanical Crown is going out on Tuesdays. I'm watching closely to see how the numbers go up - although it's hard to know for sure, as I'm in a very different position now that I have a 90k+ reads book and a Watty award.

Bear in mind that you can write on one day, upload on another and publish on a third. You don't have to do everything in one go.

Stick to your schedule as best you can, but don't panic if you deliver a chapter a day late once in a while. That shouldn't affect the algorithms or your reader's enjoyment. What you can't do is miss entire weeks at a time, as your readers will drift away and possibly won't come back.

Great! Your serial writing adventure has begun. All you need to do now is find some readers.

When do you find is best to publish on Wattpad?

Next up: Spreading the word

If this guide helps your writing, you can buy me a coffee here: http://ko-fi.com/simonkjones  

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