A literary pal asked for a proofreader for one of his projects, and as a fan of the guy I leapt at the chance. Editing, I have no experience with, but I can find a mis-spelled homophone like a boss. (At least when it isn’t my own work I’m proofreading. *tugs collar*) Besides, I’ve had considerable help from my own readers, so it’s high time I paid that forward. And here’s how you can help an author-brother out when you decide to pay it forward.
Read it backwards. Read the last paragraph first. This allows you to focus on the words and sentences without becoming distracted by the narrative itself. You can focus a lot more on the task at hand – rooting out odd punctuation and mis-spelled words and pure grammatical errors – when you read a story this way. Starting at the end and looking at a story one paragraph at a time triggers different parts of your brain. You can’t fall into the fugue state in which the story appears in your head as a movie, and so you can’t just skim past words that you’re supposed to be studying.
Believe me, the stories that I proofread were great. Had I tried to read them from front to back, I’d have gotten three paragraphs in and been so distracted by the fun of the action that I’d have missed the point of the exercise!