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In the traditional publishing world, milestones define the production cycle of a book. You turn in the manuscript, then you get the global edit from the editor. Next come the larger structural changes and you turn those in. Copy edits are next, those niggling little change-which-to-that kinds of changes. (Or why did-that-guy’s-name-change-between-Chapter-Four-and-Chapter-Fifteen kinds of changes.)
The final step is the one I hate–the page proofs. That milestone is my last shot at making sure that the book is exactly what I want it to be. Did the copy edits I rejected make it through anyway? Have any other errors made it through? Does the plot really make sense?
For me, this is a staggeringly stressful process. First of all, I suck as a copy editor. I’m not a details-oriented reader. Once I get lost in the “fictive dream” (thanks for the phrase, Brother Bell), I don’t see the little stuff. So, for the page proofs, I have to force myself to . . . Read. Every. Word. It takes forever.
I hate page proofs.
But it helps a little to have traditions in place to get me through. It starts with the Delta mechanical pencil. I’m a fountain pen purist when it comes to hand writing my manuscripts, but for me, editing must be done with a pencil. This Delta pencil has been my go-to editing instrument for at least the last 15 books. I like the weight of it, the balance. And it will always write, irrespective of the angle, whether I’m sitting upright or reclining in a chair.
I grab a hunk of pages and start reading. Where I note a change, I dog ear that page, but all the pages have to stay in order for a while because it’s not unusual to have to refer back.
After Lord knows how many sessions of detailed reading of a story I am sooo sick of reading, I finally reach the last page. I turn it over and put it atop the 500-page mound of paper. In the case of the latest of the Grave novels, Total Mayhem (July 1, 2019), whose page proofs I finished just this morning, I had marked changes on 90 of the book’s 480 pages.
Those pages go to my office, where I sit at my desk and take a last look at every page. (I can’t count on myself to have dog eared every page where I’ve made a change.) The clean pages get tossed on the floor, and I stack the edited pages into a new pile. That pile then gets separated into mini-stacks of ten pages each. This morning, I scanned the stacks into my computer as PDFs, and then I emailed the PDFs to the production editor at Kensington.
So now it’s official. Total Mayhem is in the can. I couldn’t change a word of it even if I wanted to. The good news is that I really like the story. Now I just have to deliver two new manuscripts in the next 12 months. (Yes, I’m out of my mind.)
So, TKZ family, are there parts of the writing/editing/production process that you hate? Parts that you love?
Final note: Today is my birthday! As you read this, I be getting prepped for/undergoing/recovering from an epidural injection in my cervical spine to relieve the pain of a pinched nerve. I expect to be fine, but my responses here might be slow. Do I know how to celebrate or what!