Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Last month I wrote at some length about copy-edits, their uses, and their pernicious effects on the fragile psyches and self-esteem of writers.
"After the copy-edit it comes always the page proofs." (Which I actually finished a couple weeks ago, but let's pretend it was just yesterday, okay?)
Page proofs are yet another opportunity for an author to perfect his work, but in my case I was so sick of the damn book by this time that I doubt I helped it much. The words swam before my eyes in a noxious maelstraom of prose. The entire work seemed inutterably horrible. One word seemed just as wretched as another, one sentence seemed as lame as the next.
I wanted to bury the book in a hole and crawl away like a whipped dog.
Despite the trauma caused by this revelation of my own hideous authorial incompetence, I did manage to fix one major problem, caused by the fact that the book had been through so many edits. I had failed to convey some important information about one of the characters, because the chapter where I first introduced the character had been excised. So I was able to re-insert that piece of information. Yay, me!
While I failed to improve the book by much, the proofreader (Tracy Roe, who I will assume is female) did a much better job. After I finished the proofs and sent them back, she actually forwarded a set of queries that allowed me to fix a lot of problems. The problems were all fairly minor, but by this stage the problems had all better be minor. She did a much better job of proofing the proofs that the author had.
I should point out that I've never before been contacted by a proofreader after the proofs have been delivered, let alone with a whole long list of things that would make the book better, and that this was a terrifically wonderful surprise.
A great proofreader is worth her weight in rubies.
So am I, of course, and of course the rubies are equally likely to turn up in my case.
But still. Great job, Tracy, wherever you are.