No, I’m neither bladdered not shitfaced – that’s one of my characters. I’m sober as the proverbial judge, and doing page proofs. Five hundred and thirty four pages of closely printed text – almost one hundred and seventy thousand words. This is the final time I will see Nimbus in its raw state until I get the ARCs – the advance reading copies, (the ones that go out for pre-publication reviews) I’ve just taken a break from staring at the printed sheets because my vision is blurry. (One of the reasons I usually read for pleasure on Kindle is that I can increase the font size when my eyes get tired.) I’m on page four hundred and twenty of my page proofs and I’ve been at this for four days so far. It’s Sunday night and my deadline is Tuesday. At this rate I should finish on time
I like to check the page proofs on paper because I spot a lot more typos than I would on screen. I have a piece of card the width of the print and I go through the whole thing one line at a time to make sure I really read it. Without the card moving down the page it would be too easy for my eyes to skip a line. It’s easy to read what you think you’ve written, not what’s on the page.
Eliminating bloopers isn’t just my task, thank goodness. There are other eyes and brains on the job. After the content edit, the manuscript goes to a copy editor who changes my British English into American and smooths out any clunky phrasing, verbal hiccups, incorrect spelling, and grammar mistakes. He (in this case) also checks continuity of spelling and formatting. Is it air lock, air-lock or airlock?
Sometimes a copy editor makes a change that you really don’t want. If this happens you usually have the opportunity to query it, revert to the original, or discuss it with your editor.
There are the words and phrases which characterise American speech, which you may or may not want. Mom versus mum. Got versus gotten. Arse versus ass. I’ve had to revert diaper back to nappy because my characters are not American. I’m sure my American readers are clever enough to get that.
In copy edits for previous books I discovered that Americans don’t appear to have the words tannoy or trug in their vocabulary so I ended up with the much more cumbersome public address system, and the non-specific basket Instead.
This time my copy editor substituted completely drunk for bladdered. Yes, it’s a Britishism but, in context, doesn’t bladdered make sense? The dialogue in question is (one friend to another over a second glass of whisky), “Slow down. I don’t want to send you home to your wife bladdered.” The phrase, completely drunk just doesn’t cut it here. It’s way too bland. I suggested reverting to bladdered or substituting shitfaced. (I couldn’t substitute pissed, because that’s likely to misinterpreted by USians as angry.) But shitfaced is a little too harsh and I still prefer bladdered. You may have to read the book to find out which term ends up in print.
Now I have the page proofs, I can see what Nimbus will actually look like in printed form. This is my last chance to catch typos and brainos, but at this stage I can’t make extensive changes or rewrite chunks. There are lots of little things (commas) and a few lucky catches. (I’d changed someone’s name and done a global search and replace but missed the fact that Mr. Hyde was referred to as Mr. Hunt, just once.)
All that text is eye-boggling. It’s a necessary job, but it’s tiring. I’m relieved to know that it will still go through one more proof-read \t publisher level before being finally committed to print.