I sometimes think that my publishers don't pay me for writing, which I kind of enjoy most of the time, despite what my peers sometimes say, but for all of the other stuff that goes with writing. (And if you're wondering what that means, the rather good Irish novelist Colm Toibin recently opined that the only pleasant thing about writing was the money, which was a bit unfortunate and did him no favours at all . . .)
Anyway, this week was a period of copy-edits and proof reading for THE LOVERS, both of which are horrible things to have to do, although checking copy-edits rather shades it in the horrible stakes. Basically, the copy-edit is the stage that follows editorial suggestions. Someone has gone through the manuscript very carefully, checking punctuation, grammar, and looking out for inconsistencies in the narrative. It's a job that requires terrifying degrees of knowledge and concentration, and also, I think, requires one to be fairly anal. Basically, it's the equivalent of those times in school when your teacher sat you down and went through your homework with a red pen. It's awful.
Proof pages, meanwhile, are what the author receives once the book has been typeset. It's a last chance to check for errors, but also requires the author to go through the proofs, line by line, looking for misplaced commas, absent periods, and the odd word that has just been mangled somewhere along the way. It's tedious, and you can only do a chapter or two at a time before you need to give it a break, as otherwise you start skimming.
The whole process was complicated to a head-wrecking degree this week because the British publisher's copy-edits, and the American publisher's page proofs, arrived at the same time, with the same delivery date. Now, I'd already done the American copy-edit in Maine, and I'd photocopied the manuscript so that I would have a record of the changes I, and the copy-editor, had made in order to apply them to the British version. (I've noticed over the last decade that having two copy-editors is a mixed blessing: each one spots errors that the other one missed, but the result is that I have to juggle manuscripts, and publishing schedules, in order to make sure that the same changes are made to both editions, which is difficult at times.) So, using my dining table (as my desk wasn't big enough), I had the photocopied American copy-edited manuscript in one corner, the British copy-edited manuscript in another, and the American proof pages in a third.
Then, to further muddy the waters, I had an early copy of the manuscript that had been marked by Peter English, the very helpful, patient, and tolerant ex-NYPD cop who has been advising me on police matters for THE LOVERS, so that ended up in the final corner. I think you can see where I'm going with this...
The US copy-edits needed to be added to the British copy-edit. The British copy-edit needed to be added to the US proofs. Peter's changes needed to be added to both editions. Changes made to the US proofs needed to be added to the British copy-edit.
The word you're looking for is "Ouch!"
Meanwhile, I discovered that a major character in THE LOVERS shared a surname with a recurring character from the series, so that had to be altered. Since it was all on paper rather than on a screen, the only way to do it was to carefully hunt down each reference to the new character, and alter the name by hand on two separate editions. Alongside all of that, I did a final rewrite of THE GATES, and sent it off to my agent and editors, which provided a welcome break from agonizing over THE LOVERS. My agent liked it, so now it remains to be seen if my editors want to publish it.
To be honest, my head still hurts a bit, but it's all done. Tomorrow, I'll get back to writing THE WHISPERERS.
And do you feel sorry for me?
Sigh. I didn't think so...
This week John read
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris
and listened to
The Best of Laura Nyro by Laura Nyro
Zidane (Original Soundtrack) by Mogwai
Friday Night Lights (Original Soundtrack) by Explosions In The Sky
The Falcon And The Snowman (Original Soundtrack) by Pat Metheny