What She Said
In the Guardian, A.L. Kennedy perfectly describes what it’s like to read one’s work at the proof stage:
Proof pages – nearly the finished article, but not quite. They’re a good sign: they mean your book is almost done, almost ready to pack up its things, get published and amble out to meet the reader. But, then again, proofs are also a source of almost primal panic for the writer. If your proofs are awful, wrong, badly-spelled, oddly-italicised and otherwise dysfunctional, they are a very real demonstration of both your complete powerlessness within the editing process and your witless lack of talent within the writing process. They alarm, containing, as they do, all manner of peculiarities and absurdities which have been added by strangers for no clear reason, along with the plethora of screw-ups which are utterly your own fault. How did you miss that non-agreeing verb? Did you ever know what this final sentence means? Will that character stand up to even the most cursory examination? Why did you ever think this was any use? Can anything within the compass of your meagre abilities be done to remedy this papery hellsbroth of shit? You try to hope so – tinkering with and slashing at your proofs: these representing your final chance of day-saving activity, or even just salvaging a couple of decent paragraphs
After I finished checking my proofs for Secret Son—and I am one of those very annoying authors who wants to make changes even as the book is on its way to the printer—I had regular panic attacks about it. I lay in bed at night, unable to sleep, sometimes unable to breathe. But I have to say that, as time passed (six months, to be exact), I’ve started to let go. Alea jacta est and all that. I’m just enjoying the journey now.