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.