Galley slave*

Yesterday, I read through the galleys of my story, “Take One for the Road”. It was the first time I’ve ever had a set of galleys to read through and it was particularly exciting for me. In part it was because I could see my own story as it will appear in the pages of Analog half a year from now. But also, it was yet another example of something that made me feel like a Real Writer. (I know, I know, I am a real writer, but it took me so long to get here and I am such a big fan of the genre that it is hard to get this through my thick skull.)

I have difficulty proofreading my own writing. In part, I think, it’s because I can’t force myself to slow down enough to take in every word. I know what’s coming next and my eyes jump to that and tend to skip over all sort of infelicities in grammar and spelling. Fortunately, at this stage of the process, there have been editors involved to help out. I went through the galleys twice yesterday, as slowly and carefully as I could, with the result that I found only a single typo, which I corrected and sent back. There were a few other items that I might have changed slightly (for instance, there was a sentence in which I used the word “few” twice). I might have changed that as well, but I couldn’t work up the courage to do it.

Seeing the galleys was also exciting because, while I’ve heard about galleys (and the truth is, I learned about them by reading Isaac Asimov’s autobiography), I’d never actually seen a set. It was fascinating to see what they looked like. As I said, they looked just like the story would appear on the page (including Stan’s blurb for the story). Those of you who’ve seen Analog know what I am talking about. But there was one addition to the galleys that is not included when the story appears in Analog, and that is the line numbers. Each page has a number for each line. I assume this is for identifying exactly where corrections need to take place. When I referred to the correction I made, I referred to the page number, column and line number, and I suspect this is the way that most people do it, although I could be wrong.

Finally, reading through the galleys gave me a chance to read the story once more. I think it is a pretty good story, and I’ll have more to say about it after it finally appears in print. But it reads well and smoothly and I don’t think I’d change much about it if I had the chance to do it all over again.

There is one thing that still makes me nervous, however. At Capclave, Bud Sparhawk talked about how Analog readers are the toughest readers and the smallest mistake in a story will generate a flood of letters. I mentioned this to Stan Schmidt when I met with him. He told me that the letters he worries about are not the ones that start out with “You idiot, you got such-and-such all wrong.” The writers of those types of letter apparently often don’t know what they are talking about.  The letters that worry him are the ones that begin, “Dear Sir, You are probably already aware of this, and it is a small point to bring up, but I think perhaps the author misspoke when he said…”

I’ve tried to guess at what points in my story readers might object, but I’ll just have to wait and see. Hopefully they are small enough not to interfere with the enjoyment of the story itself.


*From Isaac Asimov’s story “Galley Slave” (Galaxy, Dec ’57) which is a mystery involving the galleys of a book.