Thursday, January 13, 2005

Why I'd Rather Get Paper Cuts On My Tongue Than Proof Galleys

Apologies for the few-weeks delay on blog entries. And if you didn’t notice, well, never mind.

But I do have a good excuse.

Loathe as I am ever to complain about this, the best job around, I must say that I just emerged from what I find the most trying time of year. Galleys time.

The galleys arrived to my address on December 24th, with a brief apology from my editor. Timing is everything, they say, and there’s nothing like a holiday with a tedious job hanging over your head. Proofing the galleys, you see, isn’t fun like other editing. Second-pass on a manuscript, or even line edits, can be very stimulating because you’re ratcheting up the manuscript just that much more, making the cogs and slots align, finding that perfect turn of phrase. With galley editing, you’re mostly catching typesetting errors, looking for word repeats, or getting ambushed by errors that you’ve overlooked that will now be a huge pain in the ass to fix. And here’s the catch: no one can actually proofread your galleys except you. No matter how tempting it may sound, you can't leave it to the pub house proofreader. Because only you know if a key word got dropped in the typesetting process, or if that change that your copyeditor recommended but you rejected got sent through anyway. To do a thorough read on the manuscript takes me (depending on my mood and the particulars of the manuscript) about thirty to forty hours.

The catch is that galleys generally arrive, if you’re a book-a-year guy or gal, when you already have up a full head of steam on the next book. I have a tough time setting down a rough draft for a week or two and picking it back up. If I leave my creative mark for a significant period of time, it usually takes me a week or two to find my bearings once I dive back in. I used to drive myself nuts when I toured. Right when I’d get settled into a good rhythm, I’d pop out for a signing to Cleveland or Boston and completely lose my momentum, since I only used to be able to write at my desk. James Patterson offered me great advice on this front when I saw him at an event we did together (he the keynote, me the mere panelist). The exchange was simple:

JP: Do you write on the road?
GH: No, I can’t.
JP (with great gravity): Learn.

And so I have. Now when I’m working on a rough draft, I won’t let anything short of an emergency interrupt it. I write on planes, in hotel rooms, in the car (no, not when I’m driving). So if a script gig or an event comes up, I fit in my screenwriting and/or prep time at night and on weekends so as not to break my 9 to 6 commitment on the new book. And I’m happy to do it, because screenwriting and events are pretty goddamned fun. With galleys it’s the same way—except piling work after work when the additional work, well, kind of sucks, doesn’t make for a happy novelist. So after proofing galleys at night, when I return to my beloved rough draft the next morning, more characters die horrible deaths. I have to get out my aggravation somewhere.


Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

Reading, and rereading and rereading one's own work....

Ok, I don't think I want to write a novel anymore.

There are fun parts to the job too, right??

By the way, really looking forward to th new book. It's been a year since I read The Program ( one of my favorites of 2004) said...


That's the good news. EVERY other part of writing a novel is fun.


Aquaryan said...

I am going to Los Angeles, next week. I am going to use the trip to encourage me into get into writing. I will be listening to music and writing on the plane. I am a proscrastinator! When I do write, I am too critical of my work!

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I do like the aspect of creating interesting people and doing things to make their lives a living hell.

So fess up, ever kill off anyone in a book who really exists?

job opportunitya said...

Terrific blog. I search the internet everytime I
get a moment to find blogs. Its better than cold iced
tea and I have to visit it one more time!
Check out my pennsylvania home refinancing blog, please!