Can you still love your book during proofreading?

Hand Proofreading a Manuscript beside LaptopI am doing the second run of proofreading for  ‘The Piano Player’s Son’. I need to concentrate, be on the alert for small mistakes, things that can so easily escape notice – ‘The Paris in in the spring’ syndrome. I like editing. The really challenging process of creating has taken place, and I can concentrate on strengthening, focusing, highlighting and cutting. It’s exciting as the work becomes more polished.

But the nitty gritty of proofing is another matter. I’ve read these words tens, hundreds of times before. My eyes glaze over. I get to the bottom of the page and realise I haven’t absorbed a thing. I start at the top again. That sounds stupid! How did I ever think that sentence made sense or was interesting?

My biggest fear when proofreading is missing grammar or spelling mistakes. I can probably cope with the odd missing word or misplaced dialogue, but imagine the mortification of ‘whose’ when it should be ‘who’s’ or ‘their’ instead of ‘there’?

Then there are the things that might have been missed at the editing stage – the horror of discovering a character’s eyes are blue on page ten, but have miraculously changed to brown forty pages later! Or – as I’m struggling with at the moment – a sudden realisation that the dates and ages don’t add up. Why on earth didn’t I realise that earlier?

The more I read, the more things tend to sound mundane. And I’m right back at that first draft stage of This is all rubbish! Why am I bothering? 

But I love these characters, don’t I? I should do – I gave birth to them. I’ve given huge chunks of my life to them, at times living with them more vividly than with the ‘real’ people. Their stories fascinate me; the complexities of their relationships intrigue me. I don’t want to fall out of love with them.

And that’s one of my fears – will I rediscover my passion and excitement for the novel when this stage is over? Or will my sense of tedium and staleness spill over and taint the finished product? Experience tells me they won’t. I remember going through similar stages when I was proofreading ‘Unravelling’. And yet, once the novel itself was in my hands, my joy was boundless. So, I’m sure the same will happen this time – it’s just that it seems a long way off at the moment.

the pian player's son v.8 flatI need to think positive thoughts while I get through this next bit, so Lindsay, repeat after me ‘I love The Piano Player’s Son’, ‘I love The Piano Player’s Son’, I love ‘The Piano Player’s Son’! Has it worked? I don’t know – ask me tomorrow!

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17 Comments

  1. Derek Taylor says:

    Don’t forget to check the marginal bits. Remember the novel whose dedication read: ‘To a very dead dad.’

  2. Derek Taylor says:

    Don’t forget to check the marginal bits. Remember the novel whose dedication that read, ‘To my very dead dad.’

  3. Lindsay says:

    When my eyes glaze over, anything is possible!

  4. In answer to the question that forms the title, no.

  5. Lindsay says:

    That’s my conclusion, Christine!

  6. Polly says:

    All will be well 🙂

  7. Lindsay says:

    Hope so, Polly!

  8. I’m not self-promoting, truly. But this is where that second, third or even fourth pair of eyes is so very useful. If you are able to copy edit and then proofread your own work, well done you. It’s incredibly difficult to see one’s own work, to self-edit, at that level. And worse than that is what you’re currently experiencing, that place where your work is too familiar and begins to sound, to you, cliche, mundane and banal. You’re too close to it. Just keep going, hold on. Once you’ve regained some distance, things will once again seem as they did when you were writing them.

    You’ve been through this, yes? So you know. I’m only defining it in the hope that seeing it reiterated gives you a bit of breathing space. As Polly says, all will be well.

  9. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Brett. It’s good to hear. Fortunately, it’s not only my eyes on this – it’s had other readers and it’s being published by Cinnamon Press, so has had some editing. But even so, it’s amazing what slips through. I appreciate your comments and will check out Novel Thinking!

  10. Trevor says:

    I think word-proceesing, as opposed to writing on paper, brings its own traps, with its endless facility for immediate revision but also the way it must absorb brain power for the mechanical bit, letting the errors creep in. And I find it so difficult to spot the mistakes on screen that then jump out at you as soon as you see the page emerging from the printer. It is so difficult to maintian the concentration with proof-reading, esepcially when you get absorbed in the story! I’ve found that Thomas Mann said ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ I wonder what he thought about proofing!

  11. Lindsay says:

    It’s amazing how the mind sees what it expects to see, especially if it’s something you’ve read several times before. Probably one of the reasons it’s tedious is that you lose sight of the characters and story in the minutiae.
    And I did spot your ploy of including typos to test me, Trevor!

  12. I know what you mean about reading something so many times it starts to look bland and uninteresting! But Lindsay – why are you editing/proofreading it? I understand you need to look over the editor’s changes, but shouldn’t the publisher be sending it out for proofing? Just sayin’ 🙂

  13. Rosemarie says:

    You’ve probably read it so often, you’re able to recite parts of it! Have you ever tried reading the page paragraphs in the wrong order i.e. backwards? it might trick your mind into looking at things differently. Also, I believe changing the font, may give a new perspective. Anything is worth a go – to alleviate the brain drain.
    Lucky you, that you enjoy the editing process – think of us mugs who loathe it – maybe that’s one secret to your success. Keep at it – you now it makes senz!

  14. Lindsay says:

    It has been read and proofed, Jo, but I need to check it as well. And I’ll have to hope it reasserts itself as ‘wonderful and fascinating’ when this process is over!

  15. Lindsay says:

    I like editing, Rosemarie, but this is just checking for mistakes. I think changing the font is a good idea at an earlier stage, but this is a PDF, so I can’t fiddle around with it. But you’re right about the brain drain!

  16. Linda Bromyard says:

    Interesting to read your blog and the responses. I am going to send it to the English teachers, if that’s ok Lindsay, in the hope of encouraging students to proof read their work.

    One question – if after publication, the reader finds an error, do you want to know, or would you prefer to live in oblivion. Occasionally, I have noticed simple errors, but not very often, for example, not mentioning names, but the author wrote that characters 1 2 and 3 were sent away on a task, then on the next page character 1 turned to yet another and said ….. I had to read it a couple of times, thinking – I thought this character had left the scene! It didnt make any difference to the story, and still enjoyed reading it!

  17. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Linda, and thanks for commenting. Yes, fine to use the post if you think it will be helpful.
    Do I want to know if people see errors afterwards? Mm – tricky one. On balance, yes I do, although I would suffer torment as a result!
    The example you mention seems like a big error to me, although it’s easy enough for it to happen. I’ve sometimes had a character sit down, for example, and then worry because I can’t find anywhere that says they were previously standing up!

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