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e_moon60

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A Week of Pages [Dec. 9th, 2012|11:41 pm]
e_moon60
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[Current Mood |tired]

All last week and until an hour or so ago, I was working on page proofs.   Page proofs, for the non-writers here, are what you get after the copy-edited manuscript has been set in type (electronically, these days) and the pages look just as they will in the eventual book.   They're also the last chance to fix things.   In theory (and mostly in practice) all the marks on the copy-edited manuscript have been transferred to the file, making it perfect.  In actuality, whether you do the copy-editing electronically or on paper, some corrections don't make it in, and some new problems do arise. 

The ideal way to proofread the page proofs is to have the copy edited manuscript and the page proofs side by side and go over them word by word, punctuation mark by punctuation mark.   The page proofs, being set in type that's smaller than the manuscript's, will not match up, page to page.  So it's not just scanning straight across to see that the lines match, but...a diverging pair of lines.  And "match" isn't the operative word, exactly, because there may still be uncaught errors in the original, as well as in the page proofs.   



The trick for the writer proofreading her own work is to ignore the story and just stare at the surface of the page looking for problems.   If the writer is a good fast reader (as I am) then the story keeps grabbing attention, pulling it away from the fact that, let's say, there's no space between the words "some" and "place," leading to "someplace" where it should read "some place."   Or, of course, the reverse...a space where there should not be a space.   A comma in the wrong place.  No comma in the right place.   Was it wrong on the copy-edited manuscript?  (Yes or no?  It makes a difference because writers are charged for making changes in proofs just because they realize the third sentence on page 263 is clumsy.)     The writer then has to go back and re-read from wherever the story took hold, this time firmly attaching attention to the surface. 

Inevitably, I find things that I wish I'd written differently.   Unless there's going to be reader confusion, or the fix is very simple and won't affect the paragraph length, I leave them as evidence of my ineptness.  In the course of this book (863 pages in manuscript, 490-something in pages)  I found 17 errors.   Ten were CE-transfer errors--the copy-edited manuscript had been correctly marked, but the marks didn't transfer (one of those produced a hilarious sentence by transposing a phrase to modify something else.   Another one may have been, but since that was an early post-CE correction,  it does not appear on the CE; I sent it by email and don't have a record of it.  Two more were not caught in the CE stage (change was made by the CE, or by me, or both, but left a now-unnecessary word behind).   Four more should have been caught (by me, by alpha readers) but were not, so those are definitely my fault.   Three of those were easy one-word substitutions of the right name for a wrong name.   The perfect fix for one would be to alter the first paragraph of a chapter, but that could easily result in a cascade of changes of pagination down through it (and the rest of the book, worst case.)  Even with electronic typesetting, it's best not to make that kind of change this late...pushing whole chapters down the row leads to other unintended consequences.   So I changed the "dateline" that orients readers to where something's happening.  That will have to do.   No line changes, no pagination changes, no problems with the rest of the organization.

Electronic typesetting has improved a lot since I first dealt with it, and I'm finding fewer errors.   (Or maybe that last clause is the reality....I'm just finding fewer errors because I'm not as good at finding errors...)    But I didn't see any compressed paragraphs of dialogue, where speeches by different speakers are bundled together in a confusing way, with maybe (or maybe not) a spare set of quote marks in the middle.

The process is, however, tedious...and slow...and I can't work at it more than an hour at a time without getting up to walk around and rest my eyes and brain.   The moment I think I can work faster...I realize I missed something on the previous page and have to back up and do it again.   It seems incredible, after the number of drafts, the number of re-readings, the amount of searching in earlier stages for just such errors...that they're still there, as if proof-reading were a whack-a-mole game and the same moles kept popping up.

In the course of proof-reading, most writers (me included) discover that some parts of the book still immediately "sing" and some parts...well, you can get very sick of a book after you've crawled slowly along its surface looking for the problems.   The words "I am SICK of this book" came out of my mouth this evening, as I came back to the kitchen table to face the last home-stretch run at it.   But it's important, and worth the effort, and now the effort is done.   Bedtime.




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Comments:
[User Picture]From: EClaireMcLean
2012-12-10 08:07 am (UTC)

Page Proofs

Glad the proofing is over for this book. It's the least fun part of writing, but so necessary. Sleep well.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 03:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Page Proofs

Thanks. Once I heard the north winds roaring over the town, I slept very well.
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2012-12-10 02:29 pm (UTC)
I can't work at it more than an hour at a time without getting up to walk around and rest my eyes and brain.

I can imagine, especially when you've written it yourself.

I have to say, though, I'm excited. :]
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 03:46 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it. Excitement in readers makes writers happy (well, unless the readers are gathering their torches and lengths of wood and buckets of tar and heading for the writer's castle....)
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2012-12-10 10:06 pm (UTC)
Heheh.
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[User Picture]From: shockwave77598
2012-12-10 02:46 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! Looking forward to reading it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 03:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I hope you like it when you do.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 03:44 pm (UTC)
You have to slow down. Sometimes I use a blank page or a ruler to make myself look and compare line by line. I also read very fast (I don't think it's formal speed-reading) and for sense, so undoing that is hard.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 03:43 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...though I think hearing my voice for as many hours as this took just might drive me completely bonkers. Esp. with the punctuation. (Though the evil humor genius might start making punctuation sounds like Victor Borge and then all notion of actual proof-reading would dissolve.)

I read aloud at an earlier stage, for "flow" of sentences, but then the focus is on expression and story.

I love your icon, by the way. Did you design it yourself?
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2012-12-10 05:47 pm (UTC)
Recent versions of Windows and OS X come with applications that will read a text or document file out loud. Not nearly as good as the screen readers for the blind, but I doubt you have $700 to invest in such either :-)

I do hear you. I've got stuff I first put on my website 10 years ago, and I *still* find errors when re-reading to see if I can continue them (and this in spite of folks who proofed for me and lots of nit-picky readers)

I think Murphy won't *allow* error free stories.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 09:33 pm (UTC)
Oh...my. Yes. I'm laughing (not really loudly though) just thinking about that.
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[User Picture]From: pickledginger
2012-12-10 04:30 pm (UTC)
Proofing one's own work is a special kind of agony. Glad yours is over for now.

(A book, a book! it must be almost a book!)
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[User Picture]From: judith_dascoyne
2012-12-10 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your effort. I am reading a Kindle edition of a book that has been published for over a decade and I am getting thrown out by stuff that should have been caught in that process. I am afraid that it did and I am reading a version from earlier in the process.

As I said Thank you so much.
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From: sheff_dogs
2012-12-10 06:08 pm (UTC)
Hard work, much harder than it seems. I am glad you have finished though as that means the book is that much closer to print.

When I was a child in the sixties I knew someone who was a proof reader for Oxford University Press, I remember her worrying as they were reducing the number of times a book was proofed by different paid proof readers from nine to seven.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-10 09:39 pm (UTC)
Wow. Just...wow. Think of having the luxury of seven, let alone nine...I'm not sure how many they're using now, but I'm sure it's not as many as seven. Years ago it was three. Was never sure if that was including the writer, or in addition to.

And that would be why older books have fewer obvious errors...first, there was often another layer of proofing, not just CE and page proofs (oh--and some publishers now do not send authors the CEs at all...whatever the CE does to the manuscript, that's what comes out.) And then, more eyes on the page. The more eyes on the page, the more of the less obvious errors are found. Making books clean and free of error is an expensive and time-consuming process that bean-counters want to make cheap and fast. But some things cannot be rushed without unfortunate consequences.

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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2012-12-10 11:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the dedication you put into your books (there are still some older books I sometimes want to throw against a wall because they have so many problems). One thing I sometimes do when proof-reading stuff is read it backwards since that WILL slow me down and make me focus. It is very annoying but sometimes works better for me than reading frontwards.
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[User Picture]From: EClaireMcLean
2012-12-11 06:28 am (UTC)

Page Proofs

Back in the olden days when I was a journeyman printer, I learned to read copy for errors upside down and backwards in galleys of linotype slugs and handset. For some reason, upside down made it easier to proof than just backwards.
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[User Picture]From: friar_bacon
2012-12-11 02:10 pm (UTC)
Have I mentioned recently that I really appreciate your willingness and ability to write wonderful stories? Thank-you!
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From: wvimes
2012-12-16 04:45 am (UTC)
I'm really looking forward to reading the next installment. Your books have a way of making me enter a different world. (One audiobook resulted in a bad sunburn once, but at least the yardwork got done.)
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[User Picture]From: Madeleine Holly-Rosing
2012-12-16 05:25 pm (UTC)

Proofing Pages

Thanks so much for posting this. It was a real eye-opener and an education. I will definitely use your methodology when proofing my own work. By the way, I look forward to reading your new book. I'm a huge fan!

Best of luck!
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