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February 2, 2011

I’ve been proofreading my second novel, The Thing on the Shore, over the past week. I find proofreading my own work a strange thing, because – for me, at any rate – it’s the first time I come back to my work after a real length of time, and so the first time I get to approach it with any real degree of objectivity.

I don’t like it. Proofreading my own work, I mean. But then I don’t know anybody who does.

In proofreading The Thing on the Shore, I’ve realised that it’s quite a strange book. I’ve been reading bits and thinking to myself, well, this sentence does feel awkward, or this reaction does seem weird, but I don’t want to change it, because it’s doing the job I want it to do. And then I start to try and second-guess the reader – particularly, will the reader care about my intentions? Will they know about my intentions? Should they be evident? Should I even have any intentions, in this post-structuralist age? Is there any point? (Well – the answer is no, I suppose, but I don’t feel that I can help having intentions). In my experience, though, trying to second-guess the reader means staring at a sentence or a page or a chapter forever and not releasing it at all.

I can’t play with the book any more, now; I can’t keep changing it. So, for me, proofreading is the relinquishment of control. It represents the transition of ownership from the writer to the reader. And I do find that really scary. Really, really scary. I shouldn’t, but I do.

From → Writing

  1. Well I did offer 😉

    • Tom Fletcher permalink

      Haha, I know, but they would have asked me to do it anyway. (They sent it to other proofreaders as well). And I wouldn’t be able to say no, for reasons Emma explains below… control-freakery in particular.

  2. I find it really scary too. But then, how can you write a novel and not be a complete control freak? I’m not even sure writers should proof their own books – it’s almost like asking for trouble. Hmm, intentions – I think your intentions are all wrapped up in the story, and the reader will get everything they need to know from that. And you’re a brilliant storyteller, Tom! Really looking forward to reading the rest of The Thing on the Shore.

    • Tom Fletcher permalink

      Thanks Emma – hope you like it!

      If I could stand to not proofread it, then I wouldn’t. But I don’t think I could let that last chance to change it go.

      (A really clumsy, confusing couple of sentences there).

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