Thursday, 31 July 2008


Proofs for two of my novels came yesterday. I’ve already started reading them. It’s amazing that at this stage one still finds mistakes – of the copy editing variety. Have the gremlins got into the computer programmes and reverted the text to what it was before the copy edit began? Or am I having an argument with the copy editor?

It’s all about “dad”. I maintain that when it’s used as a name for a particular person it should be “Dad” e.g. “Come on get a move on,” said Dad, or “Eh, Dad, can I watch TV now?” However, when it’s generic, even if you are referring to a specific person’s dad, it should be “dad”. E.g. “All the mums and dads were waiting outside the school gates. Robbie’s dad had a battered old car.” But my text seemed peppered with idiosyncratic mixed examples of these. And I’d swear the copy editor and I had corrected them all before.

That aside, it’s exciting and scary at the same time getting final proofs. You get a sense of how the book is going to look. The text in this format seems slightly strange to you – you have seen it so often before in Word, on screen or hardy copy, but anyway double-spaced and ragged right. Now it’s single or 1.5 spaced and justified right. The pages are smaller. In addition, it’s a while since you saw it. You’ve forgotten things and you’ve actually probably moved on as a writer.

I’m reading Kiters at the moment, a fantasy for 9-11 and possibly the most literary novel I’ve written to date. That infernal inner critic was mumbling something about “Beautifully written, but will 9-11 year olds really appreciate it. Isn’t the main character a bit too old to be interested in kites?” The answer: “But the teachers will probably appreciate it. And the children who like to read about people Robbie’s age probably do still like kites.”

It is a material fact – especially in my case – that writers do move on and change. And often what we’ve written before makes us cringe.

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