January 29th, 2009 by Sasha White
Our Book.

“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.”

– William Faulkner

What do you do when you’re going over the galley’s of your soon to be released book, and you’re seeing all sorts of mistakes? And not just any mistakes, but rookie mistakes. Things like repeated words, or stilted sentences – things you know you could fix easily, if only you’d noticed them earlier. Or if you were allowed to fix them now.

By ‘allowed to’, I mean just that.

If you think that when you first write The End, that you’re done writing your book, then you are kidding yourself. If you think you’re done after you’re done any revisions you get, you’re mistaken. If you think you’re done after you go over the line edits…. well, you get the idea.

This is something no one prepared me for. I’m pretty darn new to this publishing gig. I started writing 7 years ago, and while I was lucky enough to have starting selling what I wrote 6.5 years ago, I’m still a babe making rookie mistakes. My publisher is very strict about the fact that when I get my galley’s this is for MINOR CHANGES ONLY. Ones that are only absolutely necessary. But just because *I* think they’re absolutely necessary, will they? Because they reserve the right to ignore my corrections. And sometimes, they do.

You’d think that by the time I’m looking at galley’s that I’d have been over it enough to have it perfect..right? Uhmm No. Why not? Because I’m constantly striving to make things better, and the more I write, the more I learn. And the more I learn, the more mistakes I see in what I’ve written in the past. And when writing for a New York print publisher, the galleys tend to come anywhere from 6 months to a year after I’ve finished the first draft of the novel. So, I’ve learned things since then..or at least I think I have. LOL

However, there does come a time when it becomes clear that the book is no longer just MY book, but it has become OUR book. Sure, my name goes on it. And when there are grammar mistakes and typos still in it, I’m the one who gets the reader /reviewer emails saying “what’s up with that?” But, contrary to popular belief, I, the author, do not always get the last word on what gets fixed/tweaked. Which is probably a good thing, because I’m sure editors have learned that without deadlines, or limits, we would just keep tweaking and rewriting every story, because a good author is always striving to make things better…(and that can lead to the problem of over-editing, which is a whole ‘nother post) And while I may have birthed the characters and written their story, I’m no longer the only person who’s put work into it.

This was a hard lesson for me. No one ever warned me that there would be a time when my corrections/wishes could get ignored. And as someone who DID take other authors advice of not reading my books again once they were in print, it took me a while to realize it. So I’m telling you now. Focus on your edits when you have the chance, and get them right. Double check your line edits from the copy editor, and when the galleys come…be sure to go over them with a fine-tooth comb. But most of all… accept that you will almost always find things you want to correct, and that’s okay, because a perfect story is not always a good story, and a good story is not always perfect.

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14 comments to “Our Book.”

  1. Laurie K
     · January 29th, 2009 at 9:21 am · Link

    I really didn’t know this, thank you for sharing. I figured even with the galleys revisions could still be made..huh…good to know. Because I agree there is always a way to make your work better, but we’d never stop…LOL, so I see their point too.
    Thanks for the knowledge

  2. Alison Kent
     · January 29th, 2009 at 10:03 am · Link

    The repetitive word thing just killed me on my last set of galleys. I only found it in maybe three places, but I used one word three times within a couple of paragraphs. AMATEUR, LOL! I wonder if we actually had time to set the ms aside for a month before turning it in if we’d catch those things then, because I HAD read it several times before that stage of the game, ugh.

  3. nightsmusic
     · January 29th, 2009 at 11:57 am · Link

    Sasha, I love your last line. I need to put that on my site (of course, an attribution to you!) if it’s okay. :)

    And I have to mention, I have a couple friends who have been published since the rock and chisel were invented and they tell me they still find things they want to change, not only in their first books, but their newest ones as well.

    Must be that ADD internal editor…

  4. nightsmusic
     · January 29th, 2009 at 11:58 am · Link

    And once again, I forgot to check that darned little box that says notify…

  5. Jordan Summers
     · January 29th, 2009 at 12:02 pm · Link

    Sasha, I just finished reading through first pass pages and found several things that were off. It was to say the least upsetting. I’m hoping they got fixed. But I do think at some point you have to let things go for your own sanity.

  6. Sasha White
     · January 29th, 2009 at 2:25 pm · Link

    Hi Laurie,

    Nope. Galleys are just for minor typos, such as commas, and misspellings (And for me, I tend to mispell things like form instead of from, or anything with ing can become ign. LOL And unfortunately, even though I know this, and check for them, and search for them when I write, once the work is on paper only (IE: copy edits and galleys) I have a harder time finding them. I’ve been told I might have a mild form of Dyslexia, but I’ve never been tested. Personally, I just think I suck at typing, and then when reading I see what I want to see, and not always what’s there. . LOL

  7. Sasha White
     · January 29th, 2009 at 2:29 pm · Link

    That’s exactly the what I just saw Allison. And almost everything I wanted to fix was in the first three chapters of the book…so obviously, it was before I was really “into ” it, and unfortunately, it showed in the stilted sentences and repeated words. I’m hoping it was just me being neurotic though, and not really that bad. :)

  8. Sasha White
     · January 29th, 2009 at 2:31 pm · Link

    Hi Nightmusic, sure, you can post the line, and thank you for it.

    ANd yes, I fully believe there will always be something we want to fix/change. Although at the same time I do admit there have been a story or two that when finished, I sat back and went. “Wow, I love that story!” and that feeling stayed too. Wierd…but I think it shows us that our own attitude, and mental state has a big effect on our writing.

  9. Sasha White
     · January 29th, 2009 at 2:34 pm · Link

    Hi Jordan,

    I agree 100%. I think there are times, and certain stories, that we would drive ourselves insane over. I know myself, with PRIMAL MALE my editor had to literally pry it from my hands, I was so not ready to be done with it. Yet, readers have loved it, and so far no one’s picked up on what *I* felt was missing. *grin* We definitely need to learn to let go, and to trust our editors, or our sanity will suffer.

  10. R.J. Mangahas
     · January 29th, 2009 at 2:53 pm · Link

    Sasha, I know the feeling of wanting to “perfect” a story. A few years ago, I had a play produced and as I watched the performance, I saw things and thought “Oh, my God, I know how I can make this scene better.” It was fine when I changed minor things in the rehearsals, but still.

  11. Sasha White
     · January 29th, 2009 at 3:13 pm · Link

    R.J. I can only imagine that. I bet it’s even harder to keep your sanity and need to change /tweak in check when watching others act out what you saw in your mind when writing.

  12. nightsmusic
     · January 29th, 2009 at 3:15 pm · Link

    Sasha, I did. And thanks!!

  13. Lynn
     · January 29th, 2009 at 10:07 pm · Link

    I make plenty of mistakes, but I’ve also had a lot of bad luck with typesetters. I had one once who arbitrarily replaced the name of one main character (Reever) with a drug word (Reefer.) I had to crawl through that galley — literally — word by word to find all 400+ errors.

    I’ve also had editors send tracked changes electronic files to the typesetter to create my galleys, and unfortunately they sent the original document showing the markup and the typesetter actually uses it. Every word that was changed shows up running into the replacement word. This can be a nightmare if you have a novel that was significantly revised during copy-edit.

    One thing I’ve learned to do over the years is to make a photocopy of the copy-edited manuscript before I return it to the publisher. That also gives me something to refer back to when the galley comes in and something doesn’t look right to me (and weirdly enough, whenever an editor or copy-editor inserts something in my ms. I can always spot it at once.) If it was a change that was supposed to be made before the galley was typeset — and wasn’t — I change it on the galley. If it’s questioned, I send a copy of the applicable copy-edited page to the editor.

  14. Sasha White
     · January 30th, 2009 at 5:07 am · Link

    Thats good advice about making a photocopy.

    I often feel like I’m having a tug-of-war with the copy editor because they want everything gramatically perfect, and while I agree a lot of it needs to be structured properly, a huge pet peeve of mine as a reader, and a writer, is when dialogue doesn’t sound like dialogue because it’s too perfect. People do not speak with perfect grammar. Not in my world anyway. LOL I think I ‘ll start making copies too, because then when things feel so stilted, I can look and see if I was just struggling when I was writing, or if someone else changed it. LOL

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