and another thing...: WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?
The Black Angel John Connolly mystery
John Connolly Books Every Dead Thing Dark Hollow The Killing Kind
John Connolly Author The White Road Bad Men Nocturnes The Black Angel
thriller John The Book of Lost Things The UnquietThe Reapers
thriller John The Lovers The Gates Connolly
thrillers John Connolly books

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I sometimes think that my publishers don't pay me for writing, which I kind of enjoy most of the time, despite what my peers sometimes say, but for all of the other stuff that goes with writing. (And if you're wondering what that means, the rather good Irish novelist Colm Toibin recently opined that the only pleasant thing about writing was the money, which was a bit unfortunate and did him no favours at all . . .)

Anyway, this week was a period of copy-edits and proof reading for THE LOVERS, both of which are horrible things to have to do, although checking copy-edits rather shades it in the horrible stakes. Basically, the copy-edit is the stage that follows editorial suggestions. Someone has gone through the manuscript very carefully, checking punctuation, grammar, and looking out for inconsistencies in the narrative. It's a job that requires terrifying degrees of knowledge and concentration, and also, I think, requires one to be fairly anal. Basically, it's the equivalent of those times in school when your teacher sat you down and went through your homework with a red pen. It's awful.

Proof pages, meanwhile, are what the author receives once the book has been typeset. It's a last chance to check for errors, but also requires the author to go through the proofs, line by line, looking for misplaced commas, absent periods, and the odd word that has just been mangled somewhere along the way. It's tedious, and you can only do a chapter or two at a time before you need to give it a break, as otherwise you start skimming.

The whole process was complicated to a head-wrecking degree this week because the British publisher's copy-edits, and the American publisher's page proofs, arrived at the same time, with the same delivery date. Now, I'd already done the American copy-edit in Maine, and I'd photocopied the manuscript so that I would have a record of the changes I, and the copy-editor, had made in order to apply them to the British version. (I've noticed over the last decade that having two copy-editors is a mixed blessing: each one spots errors that the other one missed, but the result is that I have to juggle manuscripts, and publishing schedules, in order to make sure that the same changes are made to both editions, which is difficult at times.) So, using my dining table (as my desk wasn't big enough), I had the photocopied American copy-edited manuscript in one corner, the British copy-edited manuscript in another, and the American proof pages in a third.

Then, to further muddy the waters, I had an early copy of the manuscript that had been marked by Peter English, the very helpful, patient, and tolerant ex-NYPD cop who has been advising me on police matters for THE LOVERS, so that ended up in the final corner. I think you can see where I'm going with this...

The US copy-edits needed to be added to the British copy-edit. The British copy-edit needed to be added to the US proofs. Peter's changes needed to be added to both editions. Changes made to the US proofs needed to be added to the British copy-edit.

The word you're looking for is "Ouch!"

Meanwhile, I discovered that a major character in THE LOVERS shared a surname with a recurring character from the series, so that had to be altered. Since it was all on paper rather than on a screen, the only way to do it was to carefully hunt down each reference to the new character, and alter the name by hand on two separate editions. Alongside all of that, I did a final rewrite of THE GATES, and sent it off to my agent and editors, which provided a welcome break from agonizing over THE LOVERS. My agent liked it, so now it remains to be seen if my editors want to publish it.

To be honest, my head still hurts a bit, but it's all done. Tomorrow, I'll get back to writing THE WHISPERERS.

And do you feel sorry for me?

Sigh. I didn't think so...

This week John read

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris

and listened to

The Best of Laura Nyro by Laura Nyro

Zidane (Original Soundtrack) by Mogwai

Friday Night Lights (Original Soundtrack) by Explosions In The Sky

The Falcon And The Snowman (Original Soundtrack) by Pat Metheny


Blogger Josh Schrank said...

John, you're so wrong. We do feel sorry for you. It must be terribly hard being in your position. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that none of us would want to live the life of a world renoun author, lecturer, and documentarian... Honestly, you have our sympathy. Really. :D

8:25 AM  
Blogger Dana King said...

I've made my peace with agents, editors, the submission and publishing process, the hours of writing and editing, the promotional stuff any publisher will expect me to do, all of that. I fear that, should I become published, what could eventually drive me from the field is the copy-editing and proofreading process. Several authors have described it in their blogs lately, and it sounds hell on a stick.

9:11 AM  
Blogger John said...

Oh, Josh. If I didn't know how big your heart is, I might suspect there was a hint of sarcasm there . . .

11:54 AM  
Blogger TomH said...

The devil is in the details; a thought that probably more than once entered the mind of SVB while creating Mr Scratch, whispering in old Stone's ear.

I bet the entire journey is more than worth the effort. If not, why bother.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Emily Cross said...

This post has been removed by the author.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Emily Cross said...

John you have my sympathies - i hate editing or anything that involves detail.

On a completely off topic point, am currently sitting in DCU library and in the process of searching previous studies on my subject, have just happened to come across a certain MA thesis written in 1993 by a young plucky journalist.

Touching a bit of history, i'm surprised it wasn't incased in glass ;)

6:03 AM  
Blogger The Reader said...

You have our our sympathies Sir for what you just described sounds tedious and frankly would make you think "Why am I doing this???"

However I think its because of your these methods do we readers get to read such wonderful books.

Any chance for you touring USA & especially Houston Next year.

1:40 PM  
Blogger The Diabolical One: said...

Sorry! No sympathy from me in the slightest. All this hard work makes me buy the hardbacks first day of release, tout your work at my friends because it's the right thing to do and man, if you didn't do all this stuff, maybe you wouldn't appear to be so damn good! As a writer, there are very, very few better than you out there... oddly, I can't think of one off hand! :)

5:24 PM  
Blogger John said...

Gosh, my graduate thesis! Even I don't have a copy of that . . .
And after going to Israel, making all of my own contacts, having a gun pointed at me in a refugee camp by an irate Israeli, being involved in a car crash in Gaza, and being locked in a cell in Cairo airport, they only gave me a B. They gave the woman who did their in-house magazine an A. Ask me why I've never been back to DCU since . . .
Not that I'm bitter or anything . . .

11:31 AM  
Blogger Josh Schrank said...

My apologies, John. Who would I be if I weren't a sarcastic ne're-do-well? I can say, in all honesty, I'm glad it's your job and not mine. I wouldn't have the patience nor the persistence to be able to accomplish all of that. I'm much better suited to the arm-chair quarterback role. I'll tip a glass of Jamesons to your honour tonight at Lindeys, in Columbus. I hope things are settling down for you now.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Emily Cross said...

John - *shakes head and tuts* No appreciation for leg work, and there you were risking life and limb!

Say the word and i'll go all 'mission impossible' and smuggle it past the surly librarians. mwahaha

5:59 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

John -
Perhaps with the stress you've been through this week, I can offer a kind word....
This from a reader who has been thoroughly enjoying your work. It's been a horrible few weeks for me - mother in ICU, home remodeling, deadlines at work (I'm a journalist). But last night, I finished "The Black Angel." Midway through, I read the passage about the Fulci brothers and their "tin can" to my husband, and we laughed til we nearly cried.
So, from a grateful fan, thank you. Thank you for creating characters and plots and dialogue that take me away - even momentarily - from my everyday life. Thank you for providing diversion, and education and entertainment.
So - while your week is "hell" - I encourage - nay, beg you - please hang in there and keep at it. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

10:49 AM  
Blogger RayJoha said...

Something beautiful happend 5 days ago. My library didnt have any of your books in the original language. The day after I came in again and the librarian gave all of your books from his private collection without even knowing my name. What a fan of sharing he must be. Have a nice day evry1. Ray

1:18 AM  

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