[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Proof is in the Proofing

When I received my proof of Phineas at Bay, I expected to sail through the proofreading stage.

After all, I have a talented and meticulous editor,we've been through three drafts after the first draft (following the F. Scott Fitzgerald rule).


Yes, I'm finding a handful of small errors here and there. I expected that. It's a long novel, weighing in at just about 500 pages (not counting the short essay about why the novel and sources I added along with the acknowledgments). And, as I must confess--not that's a surprise to my patient readers here--I'm a crap typist. No, really, I am. These blog entries, squeezed in when I can do them more often than I'd like to admit, suffer from that more than work for more formal publication, but I need to watch my writing like a hawk to weed out typos. So, really, my editor has done the lion's share of that protection against writerly self-harm. And, really, no editor-writer team is going to catch every typo, or infelicity.


The trick in proofing is not to second guess aesthetic decisions at five-minutes-to-midnight. I chose, for example, not to use British spelling, even though that made the Labour Party the Labor Party. That particular usage does feel weird. (Although, equally weirdly, I have "grey" not "gray" throughout--I must have had John Grey from Can You Forgive Her? on the mind. Was I wrong? But if I change that, do I have to try to adopt British spelling throughout?

Proofing is the most horrid part of writing; you really can't make much in the way of substantive changes but the ability to do so is still there--unwise though such last minute feints in a new direction may be (Are. Almost always are.)

As Stephen King has said, “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing." Proofreading is the last chance to catch mistakes, but also the last chance to lose your nerve.

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