Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The agony and ecstasy...

... No. Just agony. In other words, proof-reading. ALICIA'S GIFT is done, packaged up & ready to go back to Hodder, covered in pen, pencil and, I'm afraid, paw-marks. But to the inevitable question from my pals, "Are you pleased with it now?", all I can say is that the more I go through my own work, the more agonising the whole business becomes. I've tidied up some crucial moments, spiced up others, neatened a sentence or two here and there, but the fact remains that when I finished writing the thing I was pleased with it, whereas now I'm finding holes of many varieties all over the ruddy place. Comforting words from publisher and agent, impatient words from husband ("Just send it off!") and get-this-in-perspective-cos-it's-suppertime miouws from Solti all do their bit to ensure that the pages will wing their way back to the Euston Road rather than hitting the shredder.

If you're giving a concert, you play the music and it's gone for good, unless you're fortunate enough to have a CD company present to record your every move. But if you're writing a book, that book is going to be on the shelves for ever. It'll be there - somewhere - long after you're taking harp lessons in the great conservatoire in the sky (or violin lessons in the other place). If you think about this too much, you can start going bananas. The manuscript stage is fine: it's your new book, it's real, you've done it, hooray! Even copy-editing is fine: you can change anything and everything, phew! But proofs...this is when you see the thing in print, laid out on its pages, and it's your last chance to change anything. And when you are still waking up at 2am thinking "Oh my God, is ABC what really happens when XYZ is starting?" and "How many instances do I have of W saying, 'HCHRTYSVDYE'? and should there be any at all?" and "Oh heck, can a dog can live that long?" gradually becomes clear that some of us are simply incapable of ever being happy with our own work, whether for a good reason or not. And then you have to "just send it off".

Waiting for the courier to arrive now.