The last two weeks have gone by in a haze of proofreading and indexing. Proofreading and indexing are easily my two least favourite parts of the book writing and production process. They are also, however, super important.
Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned this into a 12-step process, and here’s out it played out this time around
Step 1: I printed out the page proofs, together with the front cover and I had them bound. I could work from the digital copy, but a hard copy makes everything look much more ‘real’ and that’s a motivator (there’s only so far that 12 point double-spaced Times New Roman or Garamond will get you….). I also see things differently with a hard copy. It’s amazing how word placement on a page suddenly clarifies things that I’d never noticed before.
Step 2: I gathered together my sticky notes and my markers (I love markers, the more colours the better). Sticky notes are for the first read through, when I don’t want to mark up the actual document yet, but I still want to make note of possible changes. They also let me mark where I’ve stopped for the day. Markers let me highlight words and phrases that I might want to include in the index.
Step 3: I read the whole manuscript once through, from start to finish. Having read this manuscript countless times already in the writing and revising and editing stages, this can be (read: was) a daunting task. Fortunately, there was some time between the editing draft (still in 12 point Times New Roman, double spaced) and the page proofs, and coming back to the text after some time away was refreshing, at least on the first read through.
In this particular instance, the page proofs that dropped into my inbox were gorgeous and as a result, completely distracting! I couldn’t even look at the text at all for a few days because I was swooning over how it all looked. In any event, once I got back on track, I used stickies and markers during my first read to identify possible key words and necessary changes.
Step 4: I started a document that outlines the changes I think I want to make. I start a second document for the dread index.
Step 5: I enlisted help. At this point in the process, I needed a fresh pair of eyes, preferably eyes that hadn’t ever seen the manuscript before. I was able to enlist—and pay—a graduate student (thank you, Deirdre!). My husband also offered, but he noted that he’s a slow reader (also, although he’s read the first third of the book, he wants to wait until the actual book is in his hands before he reads the whole thing).
Step 6: I read the whole manuscript backwards. No, seriously. I started from the end and worked backwards, paragraph by paragraph. I pulled out my markers and circled, underlined, or otherwise highlighted any issues that I saw. I also fleshed out some more possible index terms.
Step 7: is a continuation of Step 6 because by this point I was desperate to do anything but proofread and index. The book made no sense because I was reading it backwards. I felt like I was repeating myself. I was absolutely convinced that I’d forgotten some critical details. My pace had also slowed. Considerably. I was down to 15 pages per sitting, and after that, I lost focus. But! I also noticed a couple of things that I never would have noticed if I’d read the usual way.
Step 8: I took another marker (yaye! I love markers! Did I mention that already?) and went through the text, note by note, marking them off as I transferred them into my edits and index documents.
Step 9: I waited for my second reader’s comments; it’s likely that she found stuff that I didn’t see.
Step 10: I had a nap. And then another.
Step 11: I read through my edits and index files to make sure they said what I wanted them to say. I made sure they matched up with the text. I looked to see if my index was properly capitalized, alphabetized, and cross referenced. Then, because I’m a bit fussy that way, I saved my files in a couple of different places: on the hard drive, in the cloud, on a jump drive. You know, the same places where I stored every single draft of every single chapter of the manuscript…
Step 11.5: Emailed the lot back to the publisher.
Step 12: This step usually involves chocolate of some variety. Or a good book. Or a long walk. Or some combination of the above. Or, really, whatever my exhausted body and mind desire.
[Postscript: Later, when I open the published book, my eyes will instantly be drawn to that typo that not a single person caught along the way. Not me. Not the editor I worked closely with. Not the anonymous reviewers. Not the copyeditor. Not the editors at the press. Not my student’s fresh pair of eyes or those of my husband. But there it’ll be anyway. Mocking me.]
(c) Sonja Boon, 2019.