I’m doing page proofs for The Golden City. I’ve done page proofs before. And they’re uniquely nerve-wracking, mostly because you know that this is your last chance!
When a piece of fiction goes through the editing process, changes get made. Each change generates ripples that run throughout the piece. It’s easy to imagine this like the surface of water when it’s disturbed:
Photo by Kavya Bhat
However, rarely is it just one change that gets made. In a manuscript of 115K, it looks more like this:
Photo by Sumit
And now I have one last chance to hunt down every single error I’ve made along the way, every little typo that has been missed by 3 editors and me, every problem that’s cropped up when correcting another problem.
Editor 1 suggested that we compress the timeline of the book. I said OK, and went about carefully correcting dates, references to how many days had passed, references to days of the week. After the last pass, I thought I’d located every last ripple engendered by that change. I thought I had.
But in working on Book 3, I had to look up moonrise and moonset times for May 1903.
And realized I’d forgotten that set of ripples in Book 1. Yes, I’d forgotten to CHECK THE PHASES OF THE MOON!
Now this slipped past the editors. I don’t expect them to pull up a 1902 moon calendar and double check my dates against the phases of the moon. But would a random reader do that? You bet!
Book 1 has 14 mentions of the moon in it. I now have to check each one to make sure it’s correct, because in at least one spot the moon is referred to as ‘full’ when it’s -now- a new moon. Ugh.
And because these are Page Proofs, this is my very last chance to get it right. And I need to do that while making as few new waves as possible to keep them from having to reformat things (or accidentally inserting another typo.)
Also, I’ve found a couple of old typos that have slipped past us time and time again. How many people have edited this book–including me, multiple times–and never noticed the line: A flush of heat surged through is body.???
So if you find a typo in a professionally edited book, don’t be too hard on the writer. Please! It’s like herding cats…