I got home from work today and there it sat. The white envelope from the Fed Ex guy. Inside: the page proofs for DRIVEN TO INK.
These pages are typeset and look the way they'll look when they're actually in the book. It includes all the reviews for my other books, my dedication and acknowledgments, and even the teaser for the next book.
This is the last chance I get to look at the pages before I see the real book. It's my last chance to make any changes necessary, find the typos and any other errors. The letter that accompanies these pages, however, scares the daylights out of me. "This is not the time to make major changes," I paraphrase. And then it tells me how much money it would cost to make said major changes.
The major changes are usually made during the copy editing phase of the book. I get the manuscript emailed to me with the markup from the copy editor. I can change anything at that point, my own changes and even deciding whether I want to keep the copy editor's changes. Most of the time the copy editor is on target, but sometimes he or she makes a change that goes opposite the character's voice, so I type in STET, which means, keep it the way I had it.
I did have a problem with page proofs for PRETTY IN INK. While proofing them, I realized that I have a love affair with the word "just." I have no idea why, but it was peppered everywhere throughout the book, so much so that it was clearly noticeable. So I took most of them out. Because of that, I was more than aware of my overuse of the word "just" in DRIVEN TO INK and managed to take them out during the copy editing phase.
I've been through four chapters so far and have yet to find a typo or an extra space or line or even an overused word. It worries me a little. It makes me realize that I will be going through this at least twice before I have to get it back to my editor in two weeks because it can't be that clean. It just can't be. (See, there's that word again.) I spent almost 20 years as a copy editor and I know I can find something wrong. Copy editors are by nature anal. Writers are not. At this stage, I put on my copy editor hat and I cease to be a writer.
When you read something, do you immediately zone in on that typo or an overused word? Are you a secret copy editor?