Earlier this evening I finished the page-by-page read-through and mark-up of my proof copy of The Fall Of The Hammer, and again I'm convinced there's something to be gained by doing this with a physical copy of the book that I can't obtain from a digital copy, even a read-only one. When you've grown up with physical books, it somehow feels like more is at stake with a physical book. Mistakes on paper are far more glaring than mistakes on a screen, and so you feel a greater motivation to find them and fix them.
None of my books are perfect, but I feel a responsibility to make them as professional as possible. I don't have a lot of money to throw around. Copyediting is expensive, and this year I've been on an exceedingly lean budget as a precautionary measure. (I'd rather pay someone all of what they're worth than not nearly enough, and in turn free them up to find work that pays full price instead of my piddling pittance.) The burden normally falls on me to make all the wheels turn, but I've now been cranking them all by hand instead of powering them with my bicycle. Extra care is required.
I also found a few neat tricks to expedite the process. With each fixup I need to perform, I drew a line from the margin of the page out to the edge, so that the edge of the page got "tagged" in such a way that I could see it even with the book closed. (It may be a little hard to see the marks in the image without zooming.)
Some of these were no more than a mislaid punctuation mark or a single dropped letter. Some were rewrites of an entire sentence or even paragraph, where I could tell what I wanted to say but I knew everyone else would be scratching their heads. But once I had them tagged, all I had to do is flip the pages with my thumb to find every page with a mark and apply a fix. Tape flags get in the way of handling the book, and more than even five of them turn your book into a flaky pastry of 3M plastic film.
A very stupid part of me has always resented editing. It's the part of me that thinks I'm somehow a failure because I didn't get it absolutely right the first time. Whenever such thoughts rear their ugly pointed little heads, I always have to remind myself of the other folks I've known who were paralyzed by such things to the point where they never even started anything, let alone finished it. A bad book that exists is better than a perfect book that doesn't. The former can be improved; the latter can't even be shown to anyone.
I'm still unsure whether I'll be editing my earlier books this intensely as I reissue them. I resisted the idea, because I didn't want to get tempted into rewriting older material when I could be producing newer and most likely better things. Maybe I'll take a month off here and there to fix up a given book and use a hard time limit; that way I can restrict myself to editing only X pages a day. On the whole, though, I'd rather look to the future than putter about over the past.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind