The Read-Aloud

For the past two days, I’ve been reading the revised manuscript of BEFORE THE STORM aloud. Author/friend Emilie Richards started me doing this long ago, and it’s the best way to catch  errors, really hear the rhythm of the words . . . and satisfy my life-long yearning to be an actress.
Of course, it takes forever. It’s very stop-and-go, because of the need to correct mistakes and rework sentences. I also check for duplicates, as I mentioned in an earlier post (did I overuse the word “wince,” for example?). I check for certain terms used by each character to make sure other characters are not using the same ones. (one character calls her child “honey,” while another calls her child “sweetie”). I’m ever so grateful to the inventor of the “find” function in word processing software! It’s really frightening how many mistakes I pick up during a Read-Aloud.
Tomorrow I’ll work on my acknowledgements page, and then it’s once again off to the publisher for the next round, which will be line and copy editing.
Confused? Here’s how it (usually) works:
1. The author writes a proposal/outline or synopsis and submits it (almost always via an agent) to the publisher. If this is the author’s first novel, she will most likely have to write the entire thing.
2. The proposal is accepted (often with suggested changes) and an advance is paid.
3. The author writes the book and turns it in to both agent and editor (some authors turn the manuscript [ms] in to the agent first. I’ve gotten into the habit of turning the ms in to both at the same time).
4. The editor (and sometimes the agent) get back to the author, usually with a written revision letter. This can be quite daunting, since the letters often run 2-4 single spaced pages!
5. The author considers slitting her wrists.
6. The author gets over it and thinks about the best way to make the suggested changes.
7. The author makes the changes, which she often (if she’s me) thinks she can whip out in two or three days, but which usually take two or three weeks. The author makes the ms as perfect as she possibly can. She then sends it back to her editor and agent.
8. Meanwhile, the publishing house has been having long meetings between editorial, marketing and art departments, coming up with a cover. The editor also creates cover copy — that paragraph or two you find on the inside jacket of a hardcover or the back of a paperback. Much more is going on at the publisher’s, such as determining the best slot in the schedule for the book, deciding on a promotional budget (if any), etc.
9. The editor does a “line edit,” which generally means she goes over the ms carefully to be sure the revisions are to her liking,  corrects any errors she sees and suggests possible wording changes. She also adds questions in the form of many, many post-it notes that read something like “D-Susie doesn’t sound like herself here. Change?”
10. The editor then hands the ms to a “copy editor” who checks it for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Really good copy editors, and I’ve had a few, also catch mistakes in the time line and the other sort of errors readers always write to the author about, such as “Joe was sitting on page 22, line 12 but then you say he sat down on page 22, line 15.” Or “Mary pours herself iced tea on page 12 but then she ‘puts down her orange juice’ on page 13.” Or “the subjunctive mood should only be used when something is clearly impossible.” “You said she got in her car and drove east to Bethesda, but Bethesda is west.” I could go on.
11. Then the ms is returned to the author who checks out all the questions, decides how to make the final changes, and reads over the entire manuscript to try to catch those few pesky remaining errors, some of which she is guaranteed to miss. The author sends the ms back to her editor, hoping she never has to see it again (although, she hastens to add, she still loves the story.)
12. Somewhere in here, the publisher creates “uncorrected proofs,” also known as Advanced Reading Copies. These are usually bound with an early version of the cover and are sent to reviewers.
13. The book is published! The author bites her nails as she waits to see the reviews, learn how the book is selling, and read email from her readers about all the mistakes they’ve found. Meanwhile, she’s putting the finishing touches on the next manuscript and the cycle begins again.
Whew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! And I know there are some mistakes in this post, but please don’t tell me about them . . .


  1. Margo on October 16, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    What an enormous process! After all is said and done it must be an indescribable
    feeling to see it finally in print and on the tables of bookstores. How gratifying for you to see others hold these books in their hands as if they are gold, knowing they are cherishing every word you’ve written. Such an accomplishment Diane.

  2. Julie on October 16, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    I’m going to copy and paste your steps into a document and save it in my writing resources, to read and remind myself when I finally get there!! 🙂
    I just this minute (well, an hour ago) sent off final email approval of the printer’s page proofs for the academic journal I manage/edit. It’s for a small think tank and they only do one issue per year so far, thank GOD. I’m a contractor and don’t come in until the last couple of months, and they are notoriously bad about not following up with the authors over the months.
    So, in the last six weeks, I and my small staff of two, have edited, returned, edited, sent out for peer review, edited, sent out for revisions, edited, copy edited, line edited, proofed, and done layout on six 30-page academic articles in APA style (which is a booger).
    I worked 110 hours in the last ten days (including the weekend, not just the week days!). We didn’t get the last two FIRST DRAFTS until 10 days ago, and still managed to do all that stuff to them. Shew!
    I’m not trying to brag or whine, just saying “Thank your editors, thank your editors!” because it is a hectic, painstaking job, and it’s hard to let stuff go finally when you KNOW you most likely missed something. That’s tough for perfectionists!!!! I think I’m going to sponsor a contest at the office for folks to find the two typos I already found since approving those page proofs. LOL
    I’ll be so happy to be on the other side of the desk full-time one of these days! But, I’m pretty much done for this year and now can get back to my writing full time for several months. Whoopee!!
    Oh, I love Emilie Richards, by the way! When I read Iron Lace all those years ago, I was hooked.

  3. Diane Chamberlain on October 16, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Julie, I had to laugh reading what you’ve been up to the last couple of weeks/months. It gets crazy, doesn’t it? I adore my editor; I’ve been very lucky with the editors I’ve had. I always remind myself “We’re on the same team.” It can be easy to forget that at times.
    IRON LACE was my first Emilie Richards novel and I, too, was hooked. She’s a super writer.
    Margo, it IS a great feeling when I finally have a book available for my loyal readers like you!

  4. brenda on October 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Diane-I always have my students-high school and college-read work aloud-essays, etc..they catch so much that way.
    Julie-I am tired reading what you do (and Diane)
    I am trying to do my column again-another little paper has requested it-but after 9 years, I am out of INFORMATION
    I too love Emilie Richards…Am at the college with students surrounding me-am supposed to be researching for them…

  5. brenda on October 16, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    I am in the lab at college with one of my students who loves to read. She is married and has 6 step-children, and she has 5 grandchildren. She is being introduced as we speak to you and your books.
    Chere says she will now read your books. She loves to read. She is majoring in pre-nursing at college.
    Another Diane Chamberlain fan in the making…

  6. Kathy Holmes on October 16, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    It’a amazing how effective reading aloud is. One of my clients in SF – Visa – required that we read their documentation aloud. And I learned to read my manuscripts aloud to catch mistakes that you just don’t catch by reading hardcopy. It is a daunting process – fiction is really not much different than technical documentation. Take a deep breath – it’s a lot of hard work. 🙂

  7. Diane Chamberlain on October 16, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Chere! Wow, what a family! Hope you enjoy my books, and lucky you having Brenda as a teacher.
    Kathy, I imagine the reading aloud is the same whether it’s fiction or not. Some proofreaders actually read sentence by sentence from the end of the book! Yikes.

  8. brenda on October 19, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Margo et al…Can’t you imagine what it must be like when the publisher’s get the draft of Diane’s books–coming up with the cover and title???? Look how much fun we have had. I can’t wait to go to the store to get that book.
    Diane-how does one get to become an early reader and critique the book before it hits the stores???? I am wishing…

  9. Diane Chamberlain on October 19, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    Brenda, the advanced reading copies go to professional reviewers for newspapers, Publishers Weekly, etc. Of course, you’re an honorary reviewer since you’re my biggest promoter. If you email me around April, I’ll see if I can get you a copy.

  10. brenda on October 20, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Will do, although remember I turned 60? Who knows what I will remember by April? Right! Like I would forget this…

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