TOUCHSTONE is off to the gentle hands of my editor at Bantam, who will no doubt find further nudges and tweaks to perform before the manuscript goes to be typeset. But when she finishes her line edit, she will send it to the copy editor, not back to me, because the changes will be small. This means I have time to let the story go cold in my mind, and when I see it again in a few weeks, I can see it with fresh eyes.
Does that subplot I wrestled with still have problems, as I suspect, or is it in fact just fine? Have I explained each characterâ€™s driving forces sufficiently, without going overboard? Does the setting nurture the action sufficiently, or do I need to add one or two more lines to make some aspect of the Cornish landscape, Londonâ€™s tension, or the Dukeâ€™s country estate more immediate and real? Are the supporting characters vivid enough to be interesting, yet simple enough to be allowed to stay in the background? Is each sentence one of the main characters speaks in a voice that can only be from him or herâ€”American slang for Harris Stuyvesant, reticent British English for Bennett Grey (â€œTouchstoneâ€), breezy flapper talk overlying serious ideas for Greyâ€™s sister Sarah?
This phase of the rewrite, as opposed to the last one where I was hauling entire sections around and redoing the setting of a third of the book, is the polishing phase. My father used to be a furniture repairman, and he occasionally was called upon to do a French Polish, long smoothing strokes with extremely fine steel wool working in the polish to the wood, laborious but without peer for creating a finish. Every minor bump and roughness, every misshapen chapter or anachronistic image, every inadvertent repetition smoothed out, so all the reader notices is the texture of the story below.
Piece of cake.