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‘Put a fork in it’

‘When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.’

Stephen King, <i>On Writing: A memoir of the craft</i>

There are some in the office who might laugh at this phrase of mine and now most of my colleagues will know what I mean and not get offended. It’s a phrase I use when something is done, but the author (for one reason or another) isn’t able to stop changing things about the text. Those changes are relatively small (like ‘she turned her head to look at him’ to ‘she curved her head to look at him’ or ‘she arched her neck so she could look at him’) but they often churn up just before the book goes to print.

To be fair, it’s not a bad trait because it means the author cares about the words the reader is looking at and, often, it can change the tone or even meaning of the sentence. But when the author is one day away from proof approval and getting the book off to print, second-guessing about whether a comma is in the right place might put more stress on the plate than is necessary.

For those authors stuck in this moment, it’s important to remember the amount of time both you and your production team have put into the book. Think, ‘Does that change really need to happen?’ and, at the end of the day, ‘Does that change alter a major part in the book and is that change okay?’ If so, then it needs to be vocalised, but know that even the greatest of writers have never thought, ‘Yes, every word in this book is perfect.’ But, I’m sure they could tell you, ‘Still, I’m happy that’s a damn good story.’

Don’t get caught up in the little changes, but remember the whole picture. And know that it’s ‘a damn good’ one.

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