Six impossible things

Next Step on the Way

Last Wednesday, I finished reviewing the copy-edit of Across the Great Barrier, which was my last chance to make any major changes to the book. I’ll get another look at it when the galleys/page proofs come, but barring some totally egregious error that’s slipped past every single person who’s gone over the ms. thus far, I’ll only be able to make minor changes at that point. As far as the words go, the book has reached its final form.

It was also my last chance to fix any of the problems my first-readers complained about (and there were a couple of glitches that I can only hope I got filed down to an appropriate level – there wasn’t time to give anyone yet another look at the final ms.)

This particular copy-edit was both easy and insanely difficult. Easy, in that there were really very few queries or fixes (which was reassuring), and most of the fixes were due to changes I made during the editorial revisions that didn’t get carried completely through all the later references (I sent one character off to Albion/England in the rewrite, but there he was, three chapters later, still hanging around in one of the transition paragraphs. Ooops.) Hard, because this ms. has been exhausting and difficult pretty much throughout, and there was an exceptionally short turn-around from when I finished the revisions to when the copy-edit showed up in my mailbox (meaning, I didn’t have as much down time before I had to tackle the copy-edit).

It was also difficult because it reminded me of all the things I didn’t manage to stuff into it that I really wanted. That Cathayan adept I’ve had in mind since the middle of Thirteenth Child, for instance – she just refused to be bothered coming all the way to a minor town in an undeveloped baby country without a good reason (and she was downright rude about every reason I came up with. She had more important things to do with her time.) I think I’ve finally gotten her to show up briefly for Book 3, but she’s still being stubborn about not sticking around. And there were all sorts of different settlements that didn’t make it in, and one of the subplots only got about half as far as I’d expected it to, so Book 3 may be a little crowded. And it’s much too late to fix any of it.

So I was grumpy and tired of making decisions, and especially tired of coming up with ways to rephrase sentences to remove word repetitions or clarify things the copyeditor obviously didn’t quite get. (Grumpy though I was, I have to admit that the copyeditor did a great job, despite my complaining, so if he/she didn’t get something, it probably needed clarifying. I’m just really tired of doing it.)

I do feel for the copyeditor on this one. They’re supposed to do fact-checking, but how do you fact-check a “history” that’s over half imaginary, or tell when something is supposed to be recognizable but twisted slightly (as opposed to being an outright mistake)? Not to mention the fact that about half of the animals and plants are real, while the other half are either real-but-extinct (like mammoths) or completely imaginary.

But it’s done, and I can get back to work on The Far West now, at least until the galleys arrive. In theory, I got back to work when I dropped the copy-edit in the mail on Wednesday; in practice, I dropped it in the mail, ran around frantically packing and cleaning up, and took off for my monthly visit to Chicago to check on my Dad and clear up his paperwork.

So I’m now another four days behind schedule, which isn’t actually serious at this point unless I start letting it stretch out into weeks (or unless the book bloats up on me, such that my nice, reasonable schedule for getting 90,000 words finished on time turns into trying to get 200,000 words or more written and then boiled down to a reasonable length…but if it gets that extreme, the first line of defense is asking if they want it to be two books instead of one, and I only have to get panicky if they say No).

This is the kind of week I always waffle about when people come up and ask me if I really write every day. I did get a couple of paragraphs done while I was visiting Dad, but I didn’t come anywhere near my daily quota, and the two days where I was driving for 8 hours (down and back) got zero words done on the book. I also got zero new words on Book 3 for two of the days when I was working on the copy-edit, while adding approximately 20 new words to the ms. for Book 2. On the other hand, I got a couple of ideas for blog posts and got them at least partly written, so I have some bits and pieces stockpiled for emergencies. And I got a lot of thinking about the characters and the upcoming plot done during the drive.

What it boils down to is, I’m pretty happy with my overall progress, writing-wise, during the past week, even if some parts of it look more progress-like than other parts. It’ll even out next week, or the week after. As long as everything manages to get done by the time it needs to be done, I don’t have to obsess about the schedule. I do have to keep it in mind, and watch that things don’t creep up on me, or I’ll end up with two weeks to deadline and 50,000 words to write. But at this point, I can be relatively relaxed.

It’s a good feeling.

  1. I just finished reading THIRTEENTH CHILD, and I LOVED it. I’m so excited that it’s a trilogy, and I can’t wait to read it. I job shadowed Ginger Clark in May, and she gave me a copy of the book. I’m so glad she did. 🙂

    At some point, I’ll be reviewing it on my blog, and it’s going to get an awesome rating.

    Best of luck with your future writing endeavors.

    • Katie – Thanks!

      Alec – Awesome chaos is exactly the right word for it. I complain a lot, but considering the alternative, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. Thanks so much for a great peek into the author’s life. Far from scaring me, they make me get all excited (I want to fee grumpy about a copy editor!).

    Someday I’ll have this same type of awesome chaos in my life…

  3. And it looks like I *need* a copy editor (fee grumpy???).

  4. @ Alex, Even copyeditors need copyeditors!

    Be nice to the copyeditors. Think of us as readers: very, very picky readers. We try to save you from nasty notes later on.

Questions regarding foreign rights, film/tv subrights, and other business matters should be directed to Pat’s agent Ginger Clark, Curtis-Brown, Ltd., 10 Astor Place, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10003,