It’s page-proof time. The last opportunity to catch any typos and last minute (small) alterations in the text of Crossways before it’s sent to print. I have nearly two weeks to check 173,000 words of text.
From the writer’s point of view the production process goes like this:
- Write the book.
- Edit the book. Make it as good as you can make it.
- Send it to your editor
- Get editor’s thoughts either in note form or verbally. (Mine come verbally and I make notes like mad from what Sheila says.)
- Rewrite to take editor’s comments into account. Add, subtract, reshape. This is the big edit and your main chance to restructure if necessary, add or remove subplots and characters, blow something up (metaphorically) to enliven a quiet section.
- Send it back for secondary editorial comments.
- Get more thoughts from your editor. Hopefully there are only minor changes to be made at this point, though if you’ve done a major restructure and added scenes, subplots or characters there may still be a fair amount of work to do.
- Complete the final edit and polish.
- Before sending it back I like to read it out loud to myself because my ear often picks up clunky phrasing that my eye has missed.
- Send the final finished (you hope) version to editor. (At this point there may be a third and even a fourth round of edits, though mine have only ever gone through two.)
- While you’ve been writing it’s a good idea to do a style sheet to write down the definitive spelling of character names, note whether you have hyphens or not in some phrases where it’s optional (to achieve consistency), and write down any unusual phrases that you may have used such as: This place is as dry as Orphena’s twelve moons, or whether it’s jumpdrive, jump-drive or jump drive. Send this in with your final version.
- If there are no further editorial comments it then goes to the copy editor (along with the style sheet). The CE will check punctuation, clean up any sloppy phrases, and in my case change British English into American English and highlight any Britishisms that Americans might have trouble with. (Tannoy, anyone? I didn’t realise it was British only, and not American. It had to be changed to public address.)
- Last time I didn’t get the opportunity to see the copy edit as things were running to a very tight schedule. I did the whole final run through at the page-proof stage. This time I was glad to be able to see the copy edit with the changes still highlighted in track changes. Most of the changes were small, but in some cases, made me kick myself for not spotting the clunkers. I acquired a few gottens, however, which, being British, I kick against, and rephrased things to eliminate them in everything except speech by an American character. The copy editor added a rash of commas. I always think Brits tend to be comma-lite and Americans comma-heavy, but every addition made sense. The copy editor really improved the whole thing with comparatively few deft changes.
- The next thing I see are the page proofs. They come as both a pdf and as a print out. This is how it will all look on the finished page and includes the title page, dedication, and some nice quotes from reviews of Empire of Dust. I prefer to work from the printed copy, but it’s nice to have the pdf for reference, too.
- I expected to have to learn how to use proofing marks (American ones) but my publisher is happy with a list of corrections that reads: page number, line number, correction. It is possible to make minor alterations at this point but they have to be very minor–essentially correcting typos. Your publisher won’t thank you if you try to insert whole paragraphs or (heaven forfend) whole scenes.
- Once the page proofs are delivered, it’s time to sit back and wait for the book to arrive (while working on the next book).
At some time during the process, probably sooner rather than later, but in my case it was around the time of stage 4 of the above list, you may be asked to suggest a suitable subject for the cover. Sheila, my editor, commissioned Stephan Martiniere to do the cover art. (He did the cover for Empire of Dust, which I loved.) We agreed that Crossways itself, the titular space station, had to be the cover, so I supplied descriptions and Stephan came back with a gorgeous illustration that was much more imaginative than the descriptions I’d given. Luckily I had time to amend my descriptions to better reflect the cover – which I absolutely love! I saw Stephan’s illustration first, but didn’t see the graphics on the cover until fairly recently. Here’s the original illustration. Stephan’s detail is amazing.
So that’s it in a nutshell. Crossways is due out on 4th August.