9781138553477I spent a lot of my Christmas and new year checking the copy edit and page proofs of my forthcoming book Singing the News, and writing the index.  It was a strange experience.  My fiend rang one day while I was sitting at my desk staring at the page proofs, and asked if I were enjoying myself.  Well, that was an interesting question.  My feelings varied quite dramatically, from ‘That’s quite good’ through ‘Why on earth did I express myself like that?’ to ‘I don’t remember writing this at all’.

I had something akin to an existential crisis over whether to use a comma or semi colon in one particular sentence.  I know the rules.  I just couldn’t make them work.  And the more I stared, the more confused I became.  I revisited that sentence at least 8 times over the course of 4 weeks, and I’m still not certain that it’s right. There were some problems and some confusion with short titles in the footnotes, which meant some to-ing and fro-ing with the production department.  I even made the mistake of running a search for ‘ye’ to check that I’d expanded every appearance of the thorn – I only found 3 places where ‘ye’ meant ‘the’, but the two letters appear everywhere, and of course the search didn’t differentiate.  It found ‘ye’ in the running titles of four chapters, every past tense of a word ending in y, almost every early modern word ending in y, ‘yet’, ‘year’, and a host of other occurences. I finally finished that particular run-through 20 minutes later!

The biggest problem I hit was that I had sent the wrong image to the publishers for one of the musical examples.  I checked the musical analysis in the text, scrolled down the page and realised that the figure only included a melody line.   Disaster.  Because three or four lines of melody only takes a third of a page.  Three or four lines of melody with lute accompaniment takes a full page, so it has a knock on effect on the pagination that could run for pages, or even the whole book.  I couldn’t have spotted it before the proofs arrived because the copy edited document didn’t contain the images, just the call outs.  I was lucky.  For one thing, I had an understanding production manager.  For another, there was a spare half page at the end of the chapter that sucked up the run over.

I mostly came away with a feeling of how I would write it differently now.  For one thing, I would modernise the spellings, or at the very least, change the old ‘u’ and ‘i’s to ‘v’ and ‘j’.  But there are other parts where I think I could write it much better now.