Writers experience episodes of delirious delusion.
I'm done! Yippee!
And then quicker than you can say whiplash, you're rewriting again, fact-checking again, reaching for another glimpse of your delusion.
Worse than the mechanics of rewriting is the doubt that creeps in when editing a manuscript. Especially in a series, when you have a whole body of work to keep consistent.
You ask yourself, Why didn't I keep better notes?
Is it 'Senior High-rise' or 'Senior Highrise'?
Did Billy Pratt ever see Hudson's car before?
When's Mikey's birthday? Is he still eight, or is he now nine?
On the heels of submitting Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack, Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls landed on my desk. THUMP! 303 pages of what was supposed to be a breeze of a check-over. (Or is it check over?) Nancy (my editor, for those of you who are new to this) said that the copy editor had found very little to mark up on this second pass through the manuscript. "It's very clean." She even told me she was sure it would be fine if I didn't look it over.
It was tempting, especially since the schedule for getting the book finished up is tight and I'd have to turn it around quickly. But I insisted on taking another look at it. (And now you know why I'm a day late with this blog post.) I started optimistically enough, with a little stack of blue Post-its (or is it Post-Its?) and the notion that I would plow right through, leaving only a handful of pages flagged.
I held back on the little tweaks because, good grief, you can tweak a 300 page manuscript forever and still find places to tweak some more. But after a while I was cutting my little Post-its into slices and--still holding back on the minuscule tweaks--plastering skinny blue flags all over the place.
The scary thing is that after all the rewriting I've done, after Nancy read it over several times, after two different copy editors scoured it for errors (both in syntax and logic) I still found mistakes. Mistakes that would have been very embarrassing if the book had gone to press with them still there.
Mistakes that, as those of you who follow this know, are in the bound galleys.
For instance: hawking vs hocking. I'm surprised that one of the copy editors didn't catch that one.. The difference is subtle, but still, the definitions are clear. (This has to do with pawning, by the way, not loogies) And it's one of those mistakes that--should it have made it to press--would have bugged me big time!
So it took me much longer than it should have to go through the manuscript, but the lesson for me is, always give it another look if you have the opportunity. I may be nearing the end of this series, but this is no time to slack off!
For you Sammiacs, I feel sorta bad that there are two whole installments now that you can't see yet, but at least you know there won't be big pockets of time between "episodes" any more. I'd tell you that I'm plotting the next one (because, good grief, my deadline is in December!) but you might shoot me. And besides, I really have to answer fan mail. (If one of these letters in these sacks by my desk is yours, I'm SO sorry for the delay--it's just been hard to keep up with everything that's been piling up on my desk and in my life.) Maybe next week I'll post some funny lines from the mail--it can be very entertaining. Meanwhile, thanks for checking in and for the fun comments from last week. I really do enjoy you guys!