Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Journey Continues: First Pass Pages

I thought I’d get to blogging about this earlier, but, you know, holidays and whatnot…so here we are, better late than never, talking about first-pass pages.

When last we left our book-in-progress, I was reviewing copyedits and going over the manuscript, looking for errors. Two months later, another big FedEx package lands on my porch. But for the first time, the pages inside aren’t a raw manuscript. They're still loose, not bound; but otherwise, they look exactly how they will in the finished book. They’re designed. The words are typeset, the chapter headings are set off in an amazing bold font. It’s beautiful. But my publisher didn’t send them for me to admire. No, it’s time to—once more—proofread for mistakes. But honestly, at this stage, how many can there be? I sit down with my pencil and Chicago Manual of Style, and not even three pages in, oh, my God. You’ve got to be kidding.

My editor and I ended up going over all the corrections via phone. Me in Oregon with my set of pages, she in New York with hers, both our copies bristling with colored sticky tags. A different shade for every person who’d found stuff to fix. Five readers in all: the two of us, the copyeditor, the proofreader, and my good friend/writing mentor/fresh-pair-of-eyes, Karen Karbo. The scariest thing? Each of us had caught something that the other four missed. That’s how sneaky some of this stuff is. And not just typos, either. I picked up a plot inconsistency that had completely eluded me earlier. D’oh! *smacks forehead with hard object*

And yet my editor somehow made this whole thing fun, rather than nervewracking. For this, she deserves sainthood. And me—when I find an occasional slip-up in a book I’m reading, I’m a lot more forgiving than I used to be. Because I know, somewhere, the poor author (and his poor editor) are smacking their foreheads, saying, But we went over it eighteen-bazillion times! How could we have possibly missed that?

Yeah, dude. I know. But it's still a beautiful thing.


Walter Rowntree said...

One of the things I learned recently from you that shocked me was that you have two days to find all the grammer mistakes and typos! This seems like an unreasonable time frame, especially since I would think that after writing it in the first place and going over it seven times you couldn't possibly expect to find tyos yourself so you'd have to farm it out to friends. Why not give it to a high school English teacher to give one chapter to each student as an overnight exercise? Or has that been thought of before and it doesn't work?

Christine Fletcher said...

Yes, for Tallulah I had a very quick turn-around to review copyedits. So I wasn't so much finding all the mistakes myself, as going over ones that had already been found. :) What made that particular episode memorable was that I was working two other jobs at the time, so the only time I had to work on the manuscript was between 9 PM until the wee hours of the morning.

Re the high school idea: I think of the writing skills of my community college students, and I shudder! :) I'm pretty good at grammar and punctuation, but after seeing professional copyeditors and proofreaders do their stuff, I am in awe of their expertise with the English language. I love this kind of thing, and yet I'll never match their level of knowledge. And they need to turn it around expeditiously, too...So it is best left to the pros, I think.

Melissa Marsh said...

I copyedit/proofread for my day job and it never fails to amaze me the mistakes I miss. We always have two editors on everything, sometimes three.

And I love the font on the title page. Perfect!

Christine Fletcher said...

I love the font, too! The folks at Bloomsbury design the most gorgeous books. I can't wait to see the cover...