Proof Positive

Because to the reader, a book goes from vague idea to hardback-in-hand, I’m doing a series of blog posts (no spoilers!) about the actual process for The Lantern’s Dance. (Though rest assured—it’s still pretty magical.)

I’ve just finished the proof pages—those pages where the much-marked-up manuscript is formatted to look like the actual final hardback. Previously, they asked me to approve the interior design, such as the title page—

And now here it is on the actual page, with the book’s nice stylish font.

They sent it to me as a pdf, with daunting instructions for editing pdfs. Yes, I know a pdf is absolutely firmly how a thing looks on the page, immutable and permanent…except not really. We’ll get to that in a minute.

My publisher has been remarkably patient with my fixation on paper edits, but in this case, here it is. So, naturally, I printed it off so I could make notes and feel in some kind of control.

Until I got to the first page, and found that, three lines apart, Russell snaps, then refers to herself as snappy.

I mean, really, Laurie? Are you blind? Well, yes, I am with words on the page, which is why I need to sit and read it aloud. One. Word. At. A. Time. Full-voiced, not muttering. Roughly 25 pages per session, with luck two sessions a day.

By doing a readaloud, I’m more apt to catch places where I, yes, repeat words, but also where I use two words that look completely different on the page but are going to echo against each other in the audio book. Or words that aren’t quite what I meant. Or phrases that clunk or mislead. Or paragraphs that meander, rather than march along, clean and crisp.

I also catch places where my last rewrite failed to correct some plot point that had been changed earlier, and waits to confuse any reader trying to pay attention, such as having someone stand up when they were in fact already standing at the window, or deliver a climactic comeback that got said two pages before.

It took me about a week, and then to tackle the dread Adobe Acrobat pdf editor.

Ah, no. Freebie version? Not really. Sign up for a trial week—okay, but my screen looks nothing like my publisher’s instruction sheet. And it lets me draw a line through words, but not delete them—no, now it lets me delete them, but I can’t actually add words.

In the end, I decided it was safer to put everything in as a comment:

Delete had (duplication)

Change he TO: Holmes

Change HOLMES TO: he

Question: should it be were, or was?

Etcetera, etcetera.

And I created a short e-doc for three or four places where the changes were a little complicated, and the poor editor charged with in-putting the changes might get a headache if I didn’t simply type out what the finished paragraph should look like.

Additions to the Thanks page, a last brief question—

            Should Twitter be changed to:  Twitter/X  ??

—and I’m finished.

Oh sure.

It asks me if I want to close out the tab, and since it won’t let me close the thing until I have, I do. (You can hear this coming, right?)

And the thing disappears. Gone, all the changes, four days of work.

I quietly close my laptop and walk away. And the next morning, I go hunting, and find a version that looks right, and although the request for download never does download anything, a button offers to invite someone to share. So I do. And mirabile dictu, the invitation arrives in her in-box. And apparently, all 295 comments come with it.

I hate e-edits, even on a Doc file.

But this does mean that I never have to read the book again.

That, my friend, is your job.


You can pre-order The Lantern’s Dance from: Bookshop Santa Cruz (signed); Poisoned Pen Books (signed); (supporting Indie booksellers); Barnes & Noble; or Amazon.


  1. Margaret Laing on October 16, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    At last, the right sort of job offer (wink)! Thank you for more details about reading aloud. My unpublished mystery is getting a bit better now that I’m reading parts aloud when I feel stuck. (The characters are reading certain British short mystery stories together to help distract them from their investigating, and clues turn up curiously. So if they can read aloud, so can I.)

    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 5:36 pm

      Sounds like a good loop–reading to break up being stuck, AND reading to turn up clues. Win!

  2. Kathe Gust on October 16, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    Interestingly enough I can provide another instance of reading aloud as valuable. My spouse has indulged my Russell commitment, but does not share it – or at least did not share it until now. Although I am not as skilled as the audiobook reader, he not only listens to a chapter of Beekeeper read aloud every night after dinner, but demands it. “Why didn’t you tell me what a good writer Laurie is before now?” Sheesh! And I can’t even pretend to do the accents.

    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 5:37 pm

      Yes, Kathe, why DIDN’T you tell him?
      Happy reading,

  3. Diane Hendricksen on October 16, 2023 at 3:28 pm

    Wow! Well done. Looking forward to the finished book.

    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 5:37 pm

      Me too!

  4. Diane Boley on October 16, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    I applaud your patience and perseverance! My husband is a pastor and not in the habit of reading his sermon aloud before Sunday, but I know many others who do so. However, that’s not nearly as daunting as reading aloud a full book! Having worked with pdfs quite a bit in my job before retirement, I also understand the frustrations there. Thank you for taking us along on your process. I will be even more appreciative when I read the final result!

    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 5:39 pm

      My sister’s husband was a pastor who, with a houseful of kids, used to practice his sermon in the lavatory Sunday mornings. They used to hope for a short one, with little need for corrections!

  5. Bonnie W on October 16, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    I find Adobe .pdf editing a frustrating exercise as well! Costly, painful and a significant learning curve. Presumably this saves time, but whose time? (& patience). Give me a red pencil any day.

    But I agree fully with reading aloud a long piece that has been edited and rewritten many times. So many little things sneak in or are left out that are caught when read aloud. I look forward to the Lantern!

    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 5:39 pm

      Whose time, indeed.
      Hope you enjoy Lantern when it comes out.

  6. Terry Odell on October 16, 2023 at 6:51 pm

    I found I made the same kinds of mistakes when I read my MS aloud as I did while reading it. The eye sees what it wants to see and disregards the rest.
    So, tedious as it may be, I have Word read it aloud. I reads EXACTLY what’s on the page/screen, so I catch far too many glitches that way.

    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 10:05 pm

      I know people like the Word read-aloud function, I find I need to do it myself.
      But it is very interesting how the eyes see what they’re expecting to see, not what’s actually there.

  7. janet on October 16, 2023 at 7:01 pm

    Even when writing something that’s not a novel, I find reading aloud or re-reading “aloud” in my head a number of times really helps. Sometimes I’ve let my husband read whatever it is and then incorporate or not what he suggests. 🙂 Looking forward to the new book. This is one of the series I periodically re-read and continue to enjoy.


    • Laurie King on October 16, 2023 at 10:06 pm

      A new set of eyes can help, yes. Even if it’s not a professional editor!

  8. Gail Wright on October 18, 2023 at 2:20 pm

    I’m a clergy and have found it essential to read my sermons out loud. Not to actually practice the sermon but to make sure of the very things you mention – too many pronouns without their noun, sentences that meander, words that will be confusing, etc. One lesson I’ve learned from it – if at all possible don’t use a phrase like “Jesus’ disciples.” It’s too hard to say! I suspect that you have learned some similar lessons.

  9. Steve Grey on October 21, 2023 at 11:03 am

    I always like seeing the typeface information in a book. It makes me think that the publisher has gone that extra mile.

    The reading out loud is good for any kind of writing, from school essays to novels. It always surprises me when I hear a clunk in an audiobook. With more than one author, it was the repetition of an unusual word in a fairly short period of time.

    This is a great peek behind the curtain. Thank you. It would be nice if it extends through the audiobook stage (though your involvement may be minimal).

  10. VJ on October 21, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    Fellow publishing person here, on the editorial side. The latest version of Adobe is super frustrating!! Adobe Pro is necessary for the full version (with strikethrough or change text options). Also make sure you’re using it on your laptop, not trying to edit a cloud-based version. My documents are automatically saved to the cloud, and it was freezing up the document and shutting it down–without saving any of my notes. I took the risk and edited a version on my desktop, then uploaded to the cloud. Hope that helps!
    I also love that you’re thinking about both the printed- and audiobook readers while reading it aloud. This is why your finished work is always stellar. Can’t wait for the new Russell book!

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