The George Burns entry

So, George Burns was glorious comedian (along with the equally glorious Gracie Allen for years and years). Late in life he developed a running joke about a sequence of ‘Farewell Tours’. I’ve been thinking about that in terms of writers and ‘finishing books’.

We’re finished, then we’re really finished, then…

I’m done when the ending is written, then done when my first full revision with editor notes is finished, then done when I review the copy-editor’s careful pass-through, then finally done when I proofread (and trim, amend, sharpen) the typeset manuscript – which is a stage when I’m just supposed to be looking for typos. Yeah, right. Like that’s all that’s going to happen.

That last stage is, truly, an author’s (this author’s) last chance to make it better before the book gets printed and bound and, you know, bought and read. (Ideally.) So I am always doing small, but for me necessary, little fiddles. This, in turn, makes me a bad proofreader of my own books, because good proofreaders do not get sidetracked or hung up on reading for content, they are reading for errors, and getting drawn into the rhythm of sentences distracts, big time, from that.

I’m grateful, always, that there are professional proofreaders who work separately from me, with a cold eye for a typo or dropped comma. Indeed, I just learned from  the production editor an hour ago that the proofreader for Children of Earth and Sky spotted an umlaut instead of a tilde (!!) on a word in the map. That is an impressive catch, and underscores the detailed reading the good ones give you.

Author adjustments, and the proofing ‘catches’ are the reason why if you ever see an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of a book, you’ll notice a ‘not to be quoted without checking against the final version’ notice. (I do wonder how many reviewers actually do that, but…) The ARC is before this happens, it is a 95% or so version of a book, maybe 99% for some writers, but the book does get changed.

In any case, the fact that the production editor has the manuscript from both of us tells you that the final farewell for this book has happened here — it is, literally, out of my hands. Courier claimed it around noon. (Yes, I get edgy until I get a call or email that it has arrived at the publishers.)

This may require a Rob Roy or Negroni to deal with. Book’s done. Can’t call it home.