January 6, 2013

Fear! Fire! Foes!*


I’ve had my head down over SHADOWS all day and Have No Brain Left.  Final editorial corrections always go like this.  The manuscript comes in and I sit there staring at it, hoping maybe it’ll go away or be perfect or something.  Manuscripts used to come back from your editor in hard-copy pages with little yellow sticky notes frilling the edges, which was at least a large clearly hairy object, deserving of fear and dismay.  It’s harder to have the right sense of mystic dread in response to a computer file.  Still, once you open it and start flipping through, looking for virtual yellow stickies in the margins, the dread gland starts secreting its sinister serum.  Arrrgh.

So first I do a quick read-through and reassure myself that it’s all doable.   Of course it is. My editor does not want me to add twin zebras and a jewel thief.  The book is basically fine, that’s FIIIIIIINE and my editor’s queries are thoughtful and valid.  I answer a few immediately and feel better.  Briefly.  Then I start going through the manuscript properly . . .

. . . Somewhere around here I decide that I can’t frelling cope with doing it all on the computer screen, and print the sucker out.**  There.  Now I have the proper Large Hairy Object, Deserving of Fear and Dismay.  And my editor’s notes come up red which is suitably alarming.

But it’s still all doable.  Yes.  Certainly.  Not a problem.  So after the first more or less soothing*** read through I go through again more slowly and soberly, pausing thoughtfully over each marginal note, grasping its essence and contemplating my sane, astute, attentive response.  This time I also answer all the easy queries.  These answers take up a respectable amount of space in a new file† which gives me a spurious sense of being ahead of the game.  And then I go through yet again, deciding yay or nay on the slightly complex queries, the more subtle and abstruse ones . . . first read through I hadn’t realised there were any abstruse ones. . . . Which is more or less where it all starts going horribly wrong.  The queries aren’t as straightforward as I thought, as I made myself think during the Soothing Read Through.  And some of the easy ones . . . maybe aren’t so easy after all.  Maybe I should think a little more about some of those easy queries.  Maybe I should reconsider the twin zebras.  Meanwhile I’m closing in on the genuinely tricky queries, the ones I knew from the beginning were going to cause trouble and require actual work to sort out.  The ones that my editor had written me in advance about, which warning I had read with one eye closed thinking yes, yes, I’ll worry about that when the whole manuscript arrives and I can look at it in its entirety. . . .

By the fourth read through the world is disintegrating, both this one containing noisy hellterror puppies and a lot less Green & Black’s dark chocolate with peppermint centres than it did a week ago, and that one containing manic border collies named Mongo and a lot less hot chocolate than it did before the story the book tells began, hot chocolate being the default response to stressful situations in Maggie’s family, and I’m reading the want ads for openings for bricklayers and taxi drivers.

Oh, and corrections are due on the 10th.

* * *

* And Black Riders.  Maybe it’s Black Riders I have infesting my computers and my internet connection.

** I hate flipping back and forth in a large document on the computer.  I start a new KES every ten episodes or so to keep the flip factor under control.


† Figure out how to answer marginal queries IN THE MARGINS?  Are you frelling joking?  I can barely open a new file, let alone ditz around with fancy text insertion.  I admit that Windows 7 is not quite the galactic-trashing monster I was expecting, and there are a few things I positively like about it, but the fact that it takes twenty-seven clicks and the intervention of a minor saint just to open a new dangleblatted document is not popular with me.


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