Thursday, January 21, 2010

Editing Proof Copy

I received my proof copy from and was pleased and displeased. I was very happy with the cover, paper quality, binding. I was unhappy with the margins around the text and the pagination. Everything I was unhappy with can be fixed, is my fault, so I'm getting on with it. The interesting thing about the method is that you submit the internal pages of your book in PDF format. Of course, I followed their recommendations for margins and what I configured look right in the E-version. It just was wrong when printed.

This will mark my fifth full edit of the book since I first sat back, took a breath, and told my wife it was done! But looking at it printed in a 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" trade paperback size is revealing and sounds like a bear and porridge fairytale. Once the text PDF was run through the printer, the bottom margin was too great, the left and right margins were too small, and the interior (gutter) margin was just right. All easily fixable.

The real problem now is the arrangement and order of the plot and dealing with my insistence on not using quotation marks (" ") for dialogue. I want to set dialogue on an indent marked with an en dash (--).

"Well, you say, "agents and editors aren't going to think this is edgy or experimental. They're just going to think you are an idiot! Plan on instant rejection."

-- Yes, I've noticed, the aspiring author said.

Now into my fifth full edit I see that using an indent and en dash works very well, if (and only if) it is very clear from the proceeding paragraph who is speaking and the dialogue after the en dash does not contain any additional description. For example:

-- Yes, I've noticed, the aspiring author said. He coughed into his fist.

As soon as more description is added to the dialogue line, it becomes confusing. But I can fix this.

The more complex problem is the one of plot. Yes, I had a plot outline when I began writing. I wanted 13 chapters (to follow an occult model) and I wanted a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. I had a top story at the beginning of each chapter that told a piece of the story from the science fiction present. Then I had the main story, a fantasy adventure, that began with a flashback and then moved the characters forward through their adventures to the present -- which is where the story ends. So, what's wrong?

I'm happy with the writing of each individual scene, but when the narrative strings the scenes together within a single chapter (and each chapter is about 30 pages long because I was insisting on a total of 13 chapters), the causal SFF reader -- not to mention agent/editor -- is going to think there is too much space between slam-bam action scenes. How did Tolstoy and Dickens solve this problem? They didn't.

I have decided on a solution but I'll put it in future blogs.