I’m now well over p.150 in proofing Now and Then We Time Travel. No indexing—there’s no point until I correct all the names and spelling errors. Given that unlike the previous three books (listed on my non-fiction page), I don’t have to wrap the work around a day job, I think I’m in good shape. Certainly I’m less stressed about it than last week. And I think I’m doing a better job than I’ve done before, precisely because I have less time pressure.
The most basic part of the gig is spelling and grammar errors. Then comes writing choices — long sentences I want to chop in two, better phrasing, rewording for clarity, etc. But then there’s the stuff that’s unique to a book like this, which is where things get really slow.
Let’s say I have Generic Time Travel Movie in the text with a release year of 1994. I look it up in a reliable source such as Leonard Maltin’s movie guide, it says 1995, I change the text. I look it up online and find a reliable source — a New York Times review from 1995 — I do likewise. If it’s somewhere crowdsourced such as Internet Movie Database, I try to find confirmation — other sites, the studio, etc. A lot of times the disagreements are errors of definition, not fact: a film may have played at a movie festival two years before it was released to theaters or DVD.
Or let’s say Generic Time Travel Movie‘s director is given in my text as Pompous McArtyPants. I have to check that, and the screenwriter names, and the actor names. If IMDB says his name is really Pompeii McArtyPants, I then have to search online until I find some sort of confirmation which of us is right. It’s more likely to be the website, but it’s not guaranteed. For a minor example, the 1993 film Official Denial identifies Chad Everett’s role as General Spalding, but every online source says “Spaulding.” I had it right. Very minor, but I prefer having the facts right to having them wrong, even in details. It’s one reason I actually watch every movie whenever possible: what’s on the screen is decisive. Lots of sources spell out the title of +1 as Plus One but that’s not what’s on-screen, so in my text it’s +1.
Plus I’ve never done a book with so many foreign films. That requires checking twice as hard because spelling mistakes in Japanese or Finnish names (yes, I have Finnish films) don’t leap out at me as easily as, say, Jjohn Smiht would (of course even then I’d check that the guy isn’t spelling it with two J’s). And with cyrillic, Korean or Chinese lettering, I can’t get the names off the screen so I have to rely on good sources and hope they got it right. And then double-check.
So it’s not a snap. But I am making progress and I will be done in time. Even if the dogs get periodic needy attacks at my focusing so much on work. Even if the practical challenges of handling a manuscript and a computer and sitting around two dogs are sometimes difficult.
Even if I do sometimes feel I’m in some kind of a—a two-way deathtrap (cover by Carmine Infantino, all rights to current holder).