I snatched a couple of hours yesterday to work on an academic book proposal. It should have been with the editor a month ago but there was a rush on with some other books I was writing and editing. I may be too late with this one, but nevertheless the proposal will go out to someone soon.
I do edit as I go along. I write a chunk – a chapter or part of a chapter - then I reread it three times. I’ll even do that with this blog post. I’ll later do precise edits. I have to admit, though, that I’ve got this buttoned down better with fiction than with non-fiction. I don’t have a sophisticated checklist for non-fiction / academic as I have for fiction.
Finally, I print off and read in hardcopy. And still I find things I need to correct. In this final edit, I read out loud. Yes, even when it’s a 100,000 word novel. It’s good reading out loud. It slows you right down and you notice oddities that you don’t notice when you read in your head. You have to take a little care that you’re not dealing with something that should be written another way if it is to be read out loud. This only applies in a very few cases anyway. And you find things you need to alter. Every single time.
The question is: when do you stop? Do you print it out again and again? Until you finally get a copy where you don’t want to alter anything?
I don’t, actually. Unless I’ve made some big alterations, I just make the final changes from the hard copy I’ve read out. After all, you have to leave something for the editors, don’t you?
Then the book arrives. You open it. You, the writer who has continued to grow, reads it … and you want to alter it yet again. Just as you would like to tinker with all those texts written by others.
Yes, it’s all about crafting, recrafting and crafting again.