I’m writing this while trying to deal with proofreading something of just over 400 pages, 91,000 words. I mentioned this last week, trying to deal with the editor’s way of using Microsoft’s ‘red line’ way of editing.
Ask any author who must proofread – it’s obligatory – his stuff after an editor’s first run at it, and you know the poor guy is suffering. The choices, the. Changes. Oh God, did I really write that sentence or word? Would a certain character really say that? Is it out of character? Why did the editor – she’s really sharp – cut the description which I thought caught the moment? Okay, too wordy. Okay, so it doesn’t advance the plot… you can see what I’m faced with. Two, three weeks of burying myself in the office. Maybe I will have Rosanne lock the door from the outside, so there are no distractions. Hmm.Author’s comment: Back to it. Ugh.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you’ve hit Wednesday, and you seem to have accomplished nothing? Zilch? What the hell happened to Monday and Tuesday? You were sure you’d pack those two days with everything needed to be done, only to find in the first three days of the week are a bust.
It happened this past week. Monday seemed so full of promise. By Wednesday I couldn’t recall doing anything worthwhile. Busy, yes. But busy at what?
This changed Thursday morning when I woke up to find an email with a manuscript that needed proofreading. Here, I told myself, was something that I could get my teeth into.
It had arrived in a form that pretty much looks like a print galley; how the book would look, with a title page and all the rest that comes with it.
An editor had gone through it and, what any writer hoped for, corrected everything he/she missed. All the mistakes: Punctuation, lousy spelling, apart thrashing away to make it read better. That’s what editors do.
What surprised me was the red broken line down the left margin. It didn’t look familiar. I reached the publisher who told me not to worry, it was the new way of handling such matters.
Rather than try explaining it to me himself, he text (texted?) the editor who did the initial work on the manuscript, leaving it to her to explain what was up. Here’s what she sent to him.
I read over Clarke Wallace’s concerns, and I understand what he is confused about. The track changes application on Microsoft Word tracks every little change that I do to the piece – formatting, word change punctuation etc.
Hmm. I read on.
She explained that whenever she deletes a word or punctuation mark, it often deletes the space with it, which can leave behind an empty red line tracker. “This can make it seem,” she wrote, “like I changed something that wasn’t even there.” She must have taken a breath here, before continuing:
The only other thing I can think of in terms of the ‘vertical lines’, are the lines on the left side of the pages which indicate that something – anything – has been changed, even if it’s formatting or simple adjusting that looks as if nothing has been shifted.
Author’s comment: What happened, some years ago, when an author who would give it ‘the good old look it over’, make thoughtful changes, send it back? This editor knows what she’s talking about; I wish I did. Don’t get me wrong, editors are an indispensable lot, an unselfish group that when they take on such a project, they put their hearts in it.