Over the last few days I have been checking the proofs of my new book, Speaking the Piano, due out in June from Boydell Press (see photo).
Before we got to this point, there have been several other stages of editing. Various friends read the manuscript and gave their advice. My editor at Boydell sent me lots of recommendations. My copy editor did likewise, in great detail. Alongside these interventions I secretly went on tweaking the manuscript myself, often nipping back to my study while the kettle was boiling to alter a word here or there as some minuscule improvement popped into my head. Finally everyone agreed we could move on to the ‘proof’ stage. So now I find myself checking what’s supposed to be the final and perfect version of the text.
After months of tweaking, however, I find it hard to see the proofs as the fixed and stable version. It feels strange to think that the whirligig of time has now settled on these particular sentences, which will soon be printed and go forth with the grandeur of permanence. Because when I look at any page, I can’t help seeing what I wrote before, what I changed, and what I might still change. A whole archaeology of thought processes is evident to me. I can see the ghosts of phrases that could be added to make things yet more clear. As I pause to digest what I’ve read, alternatives swim in front of my inner eye, but I try not to ‘read’ them. The manuscript seems to shimmer with possibilities past and future even as I lay each page aside as ‘correct’.
Well … I guess that’s why writers carry on and write another book!