Monday, October 24, 2005

Listening to the Novel

Before I can turn the novel over to first readers, I like to make several passes through the text to catch errors. One of my regular methods is to convert the novel into spoken text and listen to it. Lots of simple errors can be caught this way. Reading a novel can be done in a couple of hours, normally, but listening to the same story takes a lot longer. Eight hours this time.

So, at a four times slower pace, omitted and doubled words, simple typos, and awkward word use are very clear. Reading them silently, these kinds of things are just skipped over. They're invisible.

I use the Mac utility, 'Books2Burn' and convert a saved RTF version of the manuscript into a collection of AIFF sound files -- one per chapter. Then I shrink them using iTunes and play them in the background while I read the text in Word.

The only problem is that it does take a while to get it all done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

First Readers

When I finish a novel, at least in the early drafts, I need to run it past eyes other than mine. For several years, I've collected a few friendly souls who've helped me out. The problem is that I'm writing novels that I believe would be ideal for high school libraries, and all my first readers are ... definitely out of high school.

Today, I visited the local high school and talked to the librarian. As I was talking to her, it occurred to me that I needed a web form to help me connect with, and screen potential first readers. So, I fired up my trusty Dreamweaver (Version 6) and created the form. A little Perl cgi on the host side, and I'm in business. Now I just have to get the word out to the proper people to go visit that form.

So... If you know of a person, hopefully under twenty, who reads and has the inclination to be a first reader for an unpublished science-fiction novel, send them off to: my First Reader Form.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I sent off the Wildlife Galleys today

I sold a story to ANALOG some time back. Long time readers may remember me mentioning it when I signed the contract.

Well, they're finally getting closer to publishing it. So they've done the layout for that issue of the magazine and the last thing I have to do is a final proofreading. Not all magazines give you that opportunity, but Analog has always been good about that kind of thing. It arrived in the mail, five sheets printed out exactly as the story will appear in the magazine. The only difference was line numbers printed in the margins.

My job is to check for any errors and correct them, getting the marked up sheets back to the magazine quickly.

These days, after the story is sold and the contract signed, I email them a copy of the actual wordprocessing file containing the story. This eliminates tons of errors. However, nothing is perfect.

Today, I found three errors. Two were mine, probably in the orginal manuscript I sent them. Both were mental stutters, where the sentence changed after I'd begun typing it. In one, I wrote "only he or a perceptive critics ". You see, I changed from one critic to several in mid thought, and never caught the extraneous 'a' in all my pre-sale proofreading. So in the galleys, I marked instructions to delete the 'a'.

There was another mind glitch, but there was a third error that I didn't write, but was caused by the emailing process.

There is a funny rule in all the email systems on the internet. If the word 'from' occurs at the beginning of a line, then put a '>' character in front of it. This is because the standard email headers use the From line as the marker for a new email. The >From situation lets the software know that we're not beginning a new email half-way down the page.

Of course, all modern email software is a lot smarter about these things now, but the old rule is still there. So it brought a smile to my lips when I saw 'He frowned at the images >from his easternmost camera.' in the galleys. I had mailed the manuscript as an RTF file and somewhere in the chain of email software, that 'from' was noticed and 'protected'. That's why you have to proof galleys, even if you're 100 percent positive you sent a perfect manuscript to the publisher. Nothing ever happens perfectly.