Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Time to lop

Mailed back my copyedits today - extraordinarily expensive but it's tax deductible. Also, extraordinarily slow. It will arrive on the date of my deadline, assuming it's not delayed.

Now I'm nervous about all the things I forgot to change, because I won't get another chance.

But overall, it feels good to be DONE with book 1.

Book 2 is not behaving at the moment. I can see I'm going to have to write about 25,000 words extra on the back end and lop the same amount off the front end to fix the pacing. For this reason I've spent the last couple of days outlining instead of writing. I do love outlining and plotting (I even love writing synopses - yes, it's true) but it doesn't make the manuscript grow longer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Working on the copyedited manuscript

I received my copyedits yesterday--a printout of the Word file with Track Changes showing. HarperCollins uses the Word document itself for typesetting (rather than re-keying... does anyone still re-key these days?) so someone in-house will "accept" or "reject" the copyeditor's corrections and take in any additional changes that I make.

For anyone wondering what this stage entails, here's how I approached it.

Firstly, I read through the covering note, house style, and all the CE's comments and corrections to check the extent of the job. The manuscript has been coded, which means codes are added to things like line spaces and chapter numbers to instruct the typesetter.

There were a few typos (let's blame Word, which stopped displaying errors after my document reached a couple of hundred pages), a few queries for "sense" (where something wasn't clear to the CE) and lots of house style things like hyphenation. Overall, the CE did a thorough job and, fortunately, there wasn't a lot for me to think about.

Then I went to Office Max and bought a pack of erasable Crayola colored pencils (because the instructions from HC told me to use a colored pencil) and a sharpener and some sticky notes. I never use pencils if I can help it because I don't like how they drag on the paper. As an editor I tried a mechanical pencil but kept breaking the point, so I was stuck with a grey-lead and frequent use of a pencil sharpener. I much prefer using ballpoints.

Note to self: Don't buy erasable colored pencils again! Although being able to erase is useful, the lead itself is chalky and crumbles as soon as you sharpen it.

Anyway, the next thing I did was curl up on the coach with my red Crayola and deal with the CE's comments and changes, adding sticky notes to anything that needed further attention. I gritted my teeth at the addition of serial commas, which as a reader I find distracting (especially in fiction), but the Chicago Manual of Style likes it so HC likes it.

Then I went to the computer and opened up my manuscript file. In the weeks since it's been out of my hands, I've made additional changes to that file (using Track Changes), so I copied all those changes into the hardcopy set.

Last of all, I went through the sticky notes and sorted those out. In four places I added a couple of sentences either for clarity or to make changes necessitated by the sequel, so I typed those in a new document and printed out each addition on a separate page, marked, for example, 77A for the insert on page 77. On page 77 itself I wrote "Insert 77A" in the appropriate place and slotted in the insert page behind it. This is all per HC's instructions but in any case it's the standard way to do things.

Oh, and I also worked on the dedication and acknowledgements. I'll go through everything one last time before sending it back--my deadline is October 6th but I think I'll be done before then.

The next time I see Song of Scarabaeus it will be as page proofs. At that stage it's too late to make changes (other than actual errors) because it's expensive to reset lines, paragraphs and sometimes entire pages when the text flow is altered. After 11 years as an editor, I can testify that this doesn't actually stop authors from fiddling with their pages...

One more thing: I went back to my electronic file and copied over all the changes, so I have a complete updated version. Next it's off to Kinko's to photocopy the hardcopy before returning it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Today is Samuel Johnson's birthday. He was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 1709, and is famous for writing the seminal Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, 150 years before the Oxford English Dictionary came into existence. Literary critic, poet, essayist, editor and more, he was cynical, often depressed, and frequently amusing, and is allegedly the second most quoted person in the English language (after Shakespeare).

There is a family legend that we are descended from Johnson's family (not from the man himself--he had no offspring--but from an uncle or brother or something). My maternal grandmother's name is Johnson, and that is the sole support for this rumor, but who knows... it might be true.

Coincidentally, I was born in Lichfield and lived there until the age of four. I revisited this gorgeous town a few years ago, with its three-spire cathedral and tudor buildings, and the house--now a museum--where Johnson was born.

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." - Samuel Johnson

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Words and blurbs

I found out I'm getting my copyedited manuscript back on 22 September. So my goal is to finish book 2 first draft by 21st, spend a few days cleaning up book 1 (whatever they allow me), which means a few days' rest from book 2, and then spend October revising book 2.

I've set myself the goal of 3000 words a day, which gives me a lot of leeway, but leeway is good. Today I'm at 1471 words so far. Made dinner for MCP and now we're both settled in to spend the evening writing.

Meanwhile, I'm excited about two authors who have agreed to read my book and - if they like it - blurb it. Meaning that they provide one of those quotes you see on the cover. I'm heading into the business end of publishing, the end you never see or really think about when you're writing the book. I have worked in publishing since the mid-90s so I know what goes on, but not specifically for fiction... and never as the author.

Having said that, tonight all that matters is words on the page. Time to get back to it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Writing is its own reward... must be, because I just went to the grocery store with a long list and yet left without a Toblerone.