Proof Reading

Saturday 31st October

By far the worst part of writing a book is proof reading the damned thing. You have sweated over it, got stuck, abandoned it several times, started again, thrown it in the bin in anger and sat down and tried to rescue it.  You have tried a couple of endings which didn’t work and one which may have.  You have re-written it from start to finish.  Cutting out pages of dross, whole chapters lost forever, embellished lines here and there, added exotic adjectives, teased out a metaphor until it snapped, enlarged on neglected sections.  And then re-worked it again, looking for trite sentiments, excising and re-writing whole sections.  And then when you are just about happy with it, you have re-read it, imagining you are a first-time reader, seeing if it flows, of the story holds your attention, if the plot isn’t too obvious, or too obscure.  Adding touches of the weather, stray thoughts that might enlighten things.  And even then you are never really happy.  You cannot escape the feeling that you might have written a better book if life hadn’t gotten in the way, if you had had more time, more concentration, less other stuff to think about.

But finally you submit it for publication.  You get a reader’s assessment that points out one or two things you missed and a few you disagree with.  So you try to address those issues too.  A final read through and you re-submit it.  By now you almost know it by heart and are truly sick of it.  Then comes the worst job of all – the proof-reading.  Not only is it tedious beyond belief, trying to look at each sentence in isolation.  Should there really be a comma there.  Should I maybe make that sentence shorter, break it in two.  Am I repeating myself too much.  And again your concentration slips, and you find you aren’t even looking at the words anymore as you know them so well.

Anyway you find a few mistakes and they will be corrected.  And the worst of it is that you know as soon as someone new reads it they will spot an even more obvious mistake that you had never noticed.  I do it all the time, even to professionally edited and proof-read books.  But it is a task I am half way through, and have broken to write this blog, which is full of mistakes too I expect, but I am damned if I am proof-reading this as well.