This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

New posts on Wednesdays. Email

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It's Terrific! It's Terrible!

            At the moment I am hip-deep in the final revisions of my third mystery novel, Not Death, But Love. This is the period in producing any book, when it is not a happy time to be an author. From a creative standpoint, the book has been let go, and all that remains is the drudgery of making sure the commas are in place, the quotes are closed, the style is consistent, and the sentences are as tight as they can be.
            Nevertheless, when shying from the task or considering making short shrift of it, I am reminded of the one-star review I read for another self-published author’s work: “Next time, he should consider spending some money on an editor so he doesn’t put out another book so full of typos to an unsuspecting world.”
            I don’t want to get a review like that, and fear can be a powerful motivator.

When Perspective Vanishes

            Something else happens to an author at this stage of the game. By now, I have been living with this book for so long that it is hard to maintain any sort of perspective toward it. Reading the manuscript yet one more time, I find myself overreacting to almost everything in it.
            If I read a paragraph that strikes me as being good, I begin to have fantasies about the ghost of Tolstoy appearing before me and tipping his hat in tribute. If I read a paragraph that strikes me as being not quite right, it can be only a matter of seconds before I’ve gone to the conclusion that the whole book is garbage and the only thing to be done with it is to hit Command-All-Delete and start all over again.
            It is not at all uncommon to encounter two such paragraphs back-to-back within the span of a minute. The mood swings are scary, and I am grateful to have the self-discipline not to act on my worst impulses.

The Power of Stet

            I have, by the way, hired an editor for this book, and she was well worth the money. What I am doing now is reading the manuscript, chapter by chapter, noting her comments and corrections, and doing additional revisions on my own initiative. Even though I’m adding, as well as subtracting, I figure the final manuscript will be a thousand words shorter by the time I’m done.
            In doing this, I am coming face-to-face with my own mental tennis match. Several times now, I’ve marked a change on the manuscript, then when I set down to enter the revisions the next day, I looked at the change and decided to leave it the way it was in the first place. I came of age in the days of manual proofreading, and one of the proof terms of the time was “stet,” which means, “ignore the correction.” I am stetting a lot as I lurch toward the final version of the book.
            Even so, the version that goes live May 27 won’t be the final one. Everything changes, and, for all the attention my editor and I have paid to detail, there will be things to be corrected after publication. I believe in the book, so I will make those changes. I want it to present as well as possible to the readers.