Writing Process #6: The Final Stages

This is the sixth and last blog in a series about the way I write a book.

After the 3rd draft, there might be a 4th draft. By this stage I’m getting impatient to get it over and done with. The internal design has been submitted by the designers, changed, because we weren’t quite happy with it. Then the editor “pours” my text into the design.

Now it looks like a book for the first time, not just a pile of computer printout. The chapter titles have a particular style, the page numbers are there just like they will be in the book. This is called designed pages. For some reason, when I read it through at this stage, I notice all kinds of things I didn’t notice before. Errors and inconsistencies just leap out at me. So once again I get out the red pen and mark up the changes I want to  make. My editor is closely involved at this stage.

I think of the editing process as being like combing tangled, knotted hair. Every time you go through it, it gets easier to pull the comb through, but when it’s almost done there are still some stubborn knots that got missed.

The cover is designed, the map has been completed. Everything is put together. There is no flexibility here. The printer has a schedule and this book has to be delivered on a set date. As that date approaches, I read through one more time. I am so sick of it by this time, I don’t ever want to read a word of it again! A printout of the book is sent to a proofreader who always finds errors! I write my acknowledgements for the “end matter” (as all the stuff at the back of a book is called).

Now the editor is doing final checks, and I’m not involved. She is checking that it all looks right on the page (no “widows” or “orphans”, and a lot of other stuff I don’t even know about). Then the file is uploaded to the printer. That’s it. It was a year and a half ago that I typed the first words. It’s finally gone.

People sometimes ask me how it feels when a book is finished. Satisfaction? Euphoria? No. Just absolute relief.