Thursday, 9 May 2013

Finishing the proof pages

I'm just finishing up the proof read of The Secrets of Life and Death, and it's been a humbling experience. Despite countless reads and edits, a lot of silly mistakes, mainly repetitions, have slipped through. And stray commas. And odd spaces and reversed speech marks. Some of them I probably created during the copy edit. I'm marking them all up and putting them into a note to go to the publishers, but I'm embarrassed by the sheer number. I'm also blushing at the fact that I can't spell 'embarrassed', thank goodness for the spell check.

I've been fairly astonished at the process of tidying up a novel. A bit like pregnancy, you focus on the birth and distracted from all the work and emotional madness that follows. Getting a book deal was a lot of work for my agent but I just sat around and daydreamed about what it would be like. Then edits, and changes, and more edits, and discussions about the cover. More edits, more has taken a lot of work to get it this far, and we still have proof copies to look at. I have a lot more respect for the process now, it's hard to get a tidy copy of your book out there. I can't remember the last time I read a book and didn't find a mistake so I'm dreading opening the book straight to one...hopefully not. 

The weather here is stormy, the wind's getting up, the sun is mostly out but clouds are scudding across from the west and my writing seems strangely influenced by the atmosphere. On rainy days I'm more likely to write moody, dark forest scenes or indoor chapters. On frosty, snowy or cold days sunshine sneaks into my writing, and warm days definitely lighten the mood on the page. I can read a first scruffy draft and often guess what the weather was like at the time...not very helpful when you write a scene over several days! But today it's cheered me up. The chickens keep getting their skirts blown up and are clucking and skipping around the yard. They prefer that to being stuck in the run, but I'll get them in if it rains. Odd gusts give them all punk hair, though.

I have a love/hate relationship with the wildlife around here. Squirrels entertain us with battles over the bird feeder but will eat all my sweetcorn, badgers that enchant us by eating dried fruit and dog biscuits off the front step, but dig up my seedlings. The onion and garlic bed planted last year now has baby onions coming up all over the place as they get dug up and replanted. I'm amazed they survive. But I wouldn't swap it. I know having such a huge house (it is silly big but there were seven of us) for a diminishing family is a bit daft, but they will all be home in the summer and I can pretend that we couldn't possibly move down to a smaller house. But in September no. 5 child goes off to university and it will just be us and the fourteen year old.  

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