This last week, I made a first pass reviewing the so-called galley proofs of my novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt. I say “so-called” because it’s kind of an old-fashioned term and they’re not really “proofs” yet, since they’re still in a word processing format. This is my publisher’s term. I would call this more a pre-format review. Still, this has allowed me and my editor to make some of those last-minute tweaks, which I hope will make the book just right.
The term “galley proof” goes back to the days of actually setting metal type in trays, which were called galleys. I’m guessing this was because they’re longer than they are wide and have raised edges, so at a glance they resemble flat-bottomed boats. The “galley proof” was the first print done with the type blocks set into the galley so an editor and writer could check that the type was set correctly. Of course, in those days, correcting type wasn’t trivial, so changes were limited to very small scale changes at the galley stage—correcting spelling or simple punctuation—nothing that would significantly affect the flow of the document because otherwise, you’d have to reset all the type on every page after the correction.
As you can see in the photo above, the digital world allows more significant changes at this stage. Things highlighted blue are some of my editor’s most recent changes, while I’m highlighting my changes in yellow.
To add ambience to this week’s activities, I was at work for a few days. This is monsoon season in Southern Arizona, which means storm clouds hug the mountaintop where the observatory I work at is located, preventing us from getting much science done as shown in the photo below.
Because of the weather conditions, I was able to get some work done on the galleys while at the observatory. As it turns out, much of the action of The Astronomer’s Crypt is set during a stormy night at an observatory. To make matters worse, my observer at the 4-meter was remote, meaning she wasn’t in the building. I only communicated with her via a Skype connection. So, I was all alone in a large building on a stormy night.
If that weren’t bad enough, there’s been quite a bit of construction going on in the building, so doors are propped open that aren’t normally and there are stacks of supplies and equipment where you wouldn’t normally find them. Sometimes I’d go down the elevator and I’d swear I’d see feet through the bottom of the elevator door as I passed a level, even though I knew I was alone in the building. I’d step out of the elevator and swear I saw a person standing beside me, only to find it was a stack of insulation. It perhaps kept me just a little too much in the spirit of my horror novel!
This week, I’m giving the book one more pass. I’m actually aiming to read a little more quickly to make sure there aren’t any large-scale continuity problems and to look for a couple of things that are nagging me even after I finished the book. After all, I want to make sure this version is just right when I send it back to my editor. Fortunately, I’m at home this week, so all the scares should come from the page alone, and not from the environment where I’m doing the work!