Monday, December 29, 2008

Hello, Cupcake!

by G.M. Malliet

I am now at what might be my least-favorite stage in getting Book #2 out into the world: going through the proofs.

Just before Christmas, a four-pound package arrived from my editor via UPS. I had been expecting this, and I knew it was no present. It was four pounds of pages of my book, typeset to look exactly as the book will look when it is a "real" book with a cover and so on. My job, should I choose to accept it, is to go through the over three hundred pages of this book, which I feel I have already read a thousand times, looking for errors. No wonder I let the package sit on my desk, lumpy, accusatory, and unopened, until after Christmas. I just couldn't face it.

Why? Because this is the stage where I see all the things I would have done differently. I have a theory that once a book is written, no author wants to revisit it, for just this reason. All you see is what you want to change, but you can't. Once the book is typeset, there's no chance for major surgery.

I will see the book yet again before it goes out. This will be the checking copy, in which I check to see that the small changes I make now have been inserted and haven't screwed up something elsewhere along the line. That I don't mind so much--by then, I suppose I've become fatalistic about the whole thing. Sink or swim, off we go.

So, what's the cupcake photo about? A new cupcake store just opened a few blocks from me. I'm on page 161 now of my four-pound monster, and it's taken me three days to get there. When I get through the whole book, I will be first in line for my reward.

p.s. The photo is from a cupcake store in Utrecht, not here in the US. I pretty much love everything about the Netherlands, and this is just one more reason why.


Paul Lamb said...

I understand that John Irving will take his own books down from the shelf and make pencil edits in the bound, commercial copies. He says he can't help himself, always tinkering with the text.

I suppose that is healthy in a way. It would seem wrong in a sense to think a work is absolutely perfect and couldn't be made even better.

Jess Lourey said...

Ach. I am no fan of that stage either, Gin. It does seem painful, but we gotta keep telling ourselves that at least we get to call ourselves authors (and eat cupcakes at the end).

G.M. Malliet said...

I just finished getting through the WHOLE PROOF. Whew. Now for that cupcake.

Paul, I would drive myself crazy doing what Irving does. Knowing the book could always be better, once started, could I ever stop tinkering?

Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography that every time she finished a book, she knew full well it could be better and it always fell short of her hopeful expectations at the beginning, but she didn't see how SHE could make it better.