Back from my refreshing stay at Charlie's Diary, I shall attempt to beguile and amaze you with new, insightful posts.

But, er, I haven't done any real work today, apart from some admin. Not my usual routine, but today is a read-through-galley-proofs day. This is the writer's final involvement with their book - after submitting it to the publisher, making changes as suggested by the commissioning editor (these tend to be high level, as in, this part of the books needs to be tightened up, we need to see more of such-and-such, or I don't understand X's motivation for doing Y), then more detailed changes thrown up during the copy-editing stage... after all that, the Word document (standard format for the industry) has gone to the printers and been turned into a QuarkXPress file or similar, the printers have produced a properly set book and printed it on loose-leaf sheets, and that's the galley proof.

So I get to read through it and make corrections. I've identified about 20 corrections in Transmission. The printers have done a superb job, because I've done some tricky stuff. There are 2 digital pictures in the book! And the guys have typeset (if that's still the correct verb) the whole thing exquisitely.

So, the corrections. Half a dozen arise from errors in the file-format translation process: two instances of plain text, between blocks of italics, also rendered in italics. A mathematical subscript that didn't show as a subscript. That kind of thing. A couple of thing's I'd overlooked in my Old Norse words - two words needed to change their spelling, each in 2 or 3 places. One contextual thing - a throwaway remark about a person's dining preferences being slightly inconsistent with an earlier chapter (a one-word change). An infelicitous phrase - repetition from a couple of lines up on the same page, something I'd normally catch earlier, but didn't.

The galleys arrived on Friday, and I went through them in one sitting - if I hadn't, there's no way I'd have spotted that contextual continuity error. Then I decided to go through the whole thing again, slowly. The book's been a long time in gestation, so why rush now when it's the very last chance to get everything right? So I'm about to go through the last bit, then send the corrections off.

I'm working on hardcopy for the first time in the process, and as far as I'm concerned this is vital, because it is the exact look of the printed book. To correct it, I'm using standard proofreading symbols.

So, hint to you not-yet-published writers out there. At some point, maybe when you get your first book contract, learning these symbols will be useful. I refer to the appendix in the Oxford English Dictionary when working on manuscripts/galleys for UK publication, and for the in-text entry in my Webster's Dictionary for US publication. Yes, the symbols are different.

If you're really just starting off, you don't need that yet. Here's a tip: learn to touch type. Anne McCaffrey told me to do just that, and I've been grateful ever since. (Of course not all writers do, probably not even the majority; but those who do, all extol the benefits.)

Anyway, something else that's new for me is that the book contains a bibliography. It's not even complete - I did my homework for this... So, in case you're interested, here it is:

Barnes, M., A New Introduction to Old Norse, Viking Society for Northern Research, University College London, 3rd Edition, 2008
Copeland, B.J. et al., Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers, Oxford University Press, 2006
Crossley-Holland, K., The Norse Myths, Pantheon Books, 1980
Fairbairn, Capt. W.E., Get Tough!, Paladin Press, 1979 (original pub. 1942)
Fölsing, A., Albert Einstein, Penguin Books, 1998
Hawkins, J., On Intelligence, Holt, 2004
Hodges, A., Alan Turing: the Enigma, Vintage, 1992
Jeffery, K., MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service, Bloomsbury, 2010
Kanigel, R., The Man Who Knew Infinity, Abacus, 1991
Laughlin, R.B., A Different Universe, Basic Books, 2005
Law, M., The Pyjama Game, Aurum, 2007
Navarro, J., What Every Body Is Saying, HarperCollins, 2008
Ornstein, R., The Right Mind, Harcourt Brace, 1997
Page, R.I., Chronicles of the Vikings, The British Museum Press, 1995
Page, R.I., Runes, The British Museum Press, 1987
Parker, A., Seven Deadly Colours, Free Press, 2005
Reid, J.M., The Atomic Nucleus, Penguin Books, 1972
Poundstone, W., Prisoner's Dilemma, Oxford University Press, 1993
Rhodes, R., The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Penguin Books, 1988
Sanmark, A., Sundman, F., The Vikings, Lyxo, 2008
Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Arrow Books, 1998
Strogatz, S., SYNC, Hyperion, 2003
Taylor, P.B., Auden, W.H., The Elder Edda, Faber and Faber, 1969
West, N., GCHQ: The Secret Wireless War 1900-86, Coronet, 1987
Yourgrau, P., A World Without Time, Basic Books, 2005

Articles on Telegraphy and on World War II in the 1956 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica were also helpful.

...oh, and... last week, in one immense sitting, I wrote a 10 - 12000 word first draft of a story that (if it stands up to the light of day when I revisit it) will form the contents of the free chapbook that every member of Novacon gets. It's a longstanding tradition that the guest of honour provides a story for the organizers, the Birmingham SF Group, to publish.

(I don't know the story's exact length because, on a whim, I wrote it using pen and paper: over 50 A4 sheets and four pens involved. These modern gel pens don't last long! I started with a part-used pen and used all its ink, went through two brand-new pens, then wrote the last chunk with a ballpoint.)

Sometimes the stories have been a bit throw-away, other times they've been serious pieces of work. I'm predisposed to take it seriously for several reasons, since Novacon 8 in 1978 was one of the pivotal events in my life, and because Birmingham has a special place in my heart. (Yes, I really said that.) The con venue might be Nottingham, but it's still the Brum Group who bring Novacon into existence every year, bless 'em.


Blogger John Meaney said...

Er... There's another handful of images in the book besides the two that I referred to - runes making an appearance here and there. Final count for corrections: 24 pages needing from one to three amendments.

August 16, 2011 at 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Melvyn Barker said...

Followed you over from Charles Stross' blog. I picked up Edge and Point from the reference there and thoroughly enjoyed them. I'll be recommending them to people and looking out for more. My only slight quibble was that I felt it would have been more in character for Josh to kill the villain in Point when he had the chance given what he'd done and how dangerous he is. I can appreciate why not from the story pov - its a great cliff hanger and sets up very nicely for a sequel, but I found the fact that he stopped short slightly jarring.

I also enjoyed the martial arts elements, particularly your reference to Aikido movement. I practice that myself, but not in a fighting or competetive style.

Melvyn in Darlington UK

August 17, 2011 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger John Meaney said...

Hi Melvyn - sorry for the delay in comment appearance - back to normal now!

Re the non-killing of Badakian, I honestly don't know whether I knew the cliff-hanger ending when I wrote the confrontation scene. For all the self-analysis I've been doing to talk about the writing process, this one escapes me.

I think Josh held back because the guy wasn't such a physical threat, and his rage never quite gets out of control - actually he's pretty emotionless at the climax of that scene - but I couldn't tell you for sure. If I did already know the ending, I might well have saved Badakian just for that.

Glad you like the martial arts stuff! I have huge respect for Aikido, though my on-the-mat time is two dojo sessions and a couple of demos with me (doing my thing) and Juliet McKenna (2nd dan Aikido) and her hubby Steve (5th dan) mixing it up. One of my Karate instructors, Ohta sensei, was very influenced by Aikido in his tai sabaki. (To everyone else: no, that's not rude. Honest.)

August 22, 2011 at 6:11 PM  

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