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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Proof is in the Book

The galleys for Photo, Snap, Shot arrived on my doorstep last week. I'm knee-deep in proofing, an activity I simultaneously love and hate.

I love proofing because it gives me one more chance to polish my work. Midnight Ink is very good about allowing me to make changes. (I've worked with publishers before where there was a real fear that any substantive changes would mess up the pagination. But MI is great about this! And Connie, my editor, is a gem.)

At this stage, I come to my book with new eyes. Since each galley sheet shows the page as it will appear in my book, I see my work as a reader will.

What sorts of changes do I make?

1. I double-check for punctuation. Again, MI is very, very thorough, but I challenge myself to find anything missing. So far, I'm on page 134 out of 324 pages and I've found one period and a couple of commas. (All of which could have been my mistakes.) I also found an ending quotation mark missing.

2. I double-check for continuity. I'm trying to be more clear about sequencing and to give my readers more clarity as to the timing.

3. I check for readability. I found a section that my editor and I agree should be changed from expository to a dialogue between Kiki and another character.

4. I check for internal consistency. For example, I am concerned about the style of the words OPEN and CLOSED. Previously we didn't put quotation marks around them, because the all caps did the trick of setting them apart. In part of this book, we used quotation marks, and in another part, we didn't. I'll suggest we not use quotation marks.

5. I fact check. Because this book is complicated, and it involves a real but secret organization, I've spent literally hundreds of hours doing online research and combing through out-of-print books. I've also learned that facts can change, and links can disappear. So from now on, I'm going to print out my research as I go along. For this book, I've worked with librarians in St. Louis and at the American Holocaust Museum to get my facts right. God bless librarians!

6. I check usage. I wrote that a person was a "principle" in an accounting firm. My editor challenged that--and she was right! I still find myself looking up other words and double-checking meanings.

7. I make sure the chapter headings are in order. I even check that the page numbers are sequential.

8. I agonize over the dedication and the acknowledgements.

9. I get legal forms signed for the character naming privileges. This book has a character naming privilege that was auctioned off by a charity, and another privilege that I offered for a contest. I need to have those permission forms in hand before we go to press. Additionally, I used two friends' names in the book, so I emailed them and got their permission.

10. I'm working on getting coupons for the back of the book. I believe we'll have some exciting news in that regard.

Did I say I love proofreading?

I hate proofreading because it demands a total absorption of time, brain-power and effort. I am reading through the pages and typing up the corrections as well as marking them on the galley. (The changes written by hand can be hard to decipher. I want to be as clear as possible.) Meanwhile my husband is reading the book, and certain pages have been marked for sending to experts in medicine and Judaism for fact-checking.

When that's done, I'll do an "all at one time" reading to find tiny gaps in logic and continuity. For example, if a character has seen something on page 42, he can't claim he didn't see it on page 83. I'll also be looking for continuity within the series. For example, the school colors of CALA, the mythical school I created, are gold and royal blue. But in one spot, I had the golfers in my book wearing the wrong colored shirts!

Why do I spend so much time proofing? This takes me at least two solid weeks of work. Maybe three.

I do it because I want to produce the best possible entertainment for my readers. I want to make sure that nothing interferes with your reading pleasure, that nothing jerks you out of the story and back into reality until you reach the words "The End."

Every minute I spend toward that goal is totally worthwhile. Even if sometimes, I'm just positive it's going to drive me nuts.


Alan Orloff said...

Joanna, I feel your pain. Actually, I felt it about four weeks ago.

And you are right, Connie is terrific!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I know, Alan. I can't wait to see your new book. And I bet you can't either!

Sarah said...

Thanks so much for all of your hard work. It will definitely be bringing me some joy and excitement in May! :)

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Sarah, I just heard from one of my editors. She said, "I found Photo, Snap, Shot to be absolutely delightful. It had me laughing in quite a few places, and Kiki’s voice is so unique and likeable."

Takes a lot to make an editor smile! I'm definitely happy to hear she liked it so much. I hope all Kiki's fans will, too.