Garment of Shadows
March 4, 2012. I open a FedEx envelope from my publishers and find this:
It is accompanied by a letter, giving a deadline:
So I get to work, reading the manuscript aloud, using a red pen to correct spelling errors, change punctuation oddities, and make small corrections to smooth and clarify the story. I find far, far too many repeats, which only crop up when the manuscript is read aloud. And that is why a piece must always be read aloud:
Anything that requires more thought, or comparison with other sections of the text, I flag. By March 8th, there are a depressing number of flags:
I am glad I’m not the typesetter. Or the poor woman who has to go through and transfer all my notes onto a master for the typesetter.
But I get to work, and sort our the kinds of problems that drive readers nuts: sand in Russell’s pockets after she’s changed her garments; half a dozen unclear sequences of events; a motive that’s a bit fuzzy; a missing reference to previous events; a scar on the wrong arm; a weapon that drifts in and out of reality; and several slight changes in emphases that transform scenes. And eventually, it’s clean:
So today, March 16, I put it back in a FedEx envelope along with a heartfelt note of abject apology, and on Monday my editor will get it and her Copy Chief Kelly will despair, and it will go on to the typesetter and in September, readers will open the covers (or click the link) and begin to uncover a whole set of undiscovered errors.
But there will be fewer of them, and I have done what I could to make the reading experience a happy one.
(And incidentally, the above is an illustration of why the Advanced Reading Copy is not the novel: what reviewers read in their ARCs is the manuscript before I have spent two solid weeks hammering away at the flaws. If you’re tempted to buy an ARC when they appear on eBay next month, You Have Been Warned.)
Next stage: cover art.