This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
by Anna Bell
Last week I received the page proofs of my latest manuscript – Don’t Tell the Brides-to-Be, which is released in February. Out of all the aspects of the publishing process it’s the one part that simultaneously fills me with joy and dread, and I think it’s my least favourite part of the editing process.
When you receive the page proofs of your manuscript it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s the first time you get to see your novel set out like a book, and for me, it’s when it all becomes real. It goes from being a never-ending word document, to being instantly recognisable as the pages that live between the covers of a book. It’s the signal that all that hard work, writing and editing, is drawing to a close, and the end is finally in sight. I have to admit that even though this is the third time I’m about to embark on this process, I still shed a little tear when I saw the pages of Don’t Tell the Brides-to-Be – a mixture of pride and relief in equal measures.
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When I read through the page proofs I have moments of joy – I’m impressed with what I’ve written. I have moments of “wow, did I actually write this?” too. Because you’re only proofing, rather than editing, you read through the manuscript at a much quicker pace, which feels like I’m reading a novel, rather than my own work-in-progress.Yet, amongst that elation of seeing my book in print, there is a fear that descends upon me. This is the final time that I get to see the manuscript before it’s printed. It’s my last opportunity to catch any errors or mistakes. Yes, a desk editor will probably go through it after me, but there’s always the hope that you’ll be able to spot a howler of an error that could haunt you forever more. Mistakes seem to leap off the page of a type set book so much easier than they do when it looks like a normal word document. Yet it’s still really hard to keep your eagle-eyed focus scanning for abnormalities and errors when you know the novel backwards, forwards and sideways.
The other reason for my hating page proofs with a passion is that I cringe … a lot. Did I write that? Is that clumsy? Is that actually English? Despite the fact that my book will have gone through a line and then a copy edit – when I would have been able to make amendments – there are still those bits that I’m not happy with on the final read through. But when everything’s type set, it’s too late. Yes, modifications can be made, but you have to remember that the text has been checked by your copy editor, so any further changes won’t be scrutinised in the same way.
I feel as though I should read the page proofs while sitting on my hands so I won’t be tempted to change anything. The trouble is, like most works of art, a book is never really finished. There’s always the odd phrase that can be tinkered with or tidied up and I’m a big believer that editing is never truly finished. This makes it all the more difficult when I get my page proofs, which can’t be modified.
Do other authors have a love hate relationship with page proofs or is it just me?