It’s been a busy but fun season of going through The Lady and the Lionheart one final time before sending the book off for copy edits. Part of this process has been pulling out a few favorite research books for this story and doing some careful fact-checking. I have a short attention span (yes, I just confessed that 🙂 ) so often struggle through non-fiction books. In school, I was the kid daydreaming that the textbooks on my desk were a raft I could float away on instead of something that actually had to be studied. But now, and as most writers would agree, when we are immersed in a topic that fascinates us…the reading is really compelling! For me, there’s something about the themes of this story that has made the research magical.

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Amid all this rereading, I also wanted to give the manuscript a careful fact-check and line edit before shipping it off to my copy editor. Last week, our family had a big vacation in the snowy mountains of Utah – and not wanting to be glued to the computer the whole time, it seemed best to print out the manuscript and bring it along as good old fashioned paper and ink. A colorful pack of Sharpies, and I was set.

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During the evening while everyone was relaxing after a long day on the slopes, I pulled out the manuscript in it’s massive binder and got to work. As an artist-writer, free spirit type, I tend to see story in splashes of color, not black and white technicality, so the final polish is often a challenge for me. Because proofing has meant careful fine-tuning, the color coding process really helped make sense of what usually makes my mind spin in circles.

The steps have been quite simple. Basically, I just selected a top list of items to watch closely, including:

  • Dress and physical appearance. If a character has green eyes or muddy shoes, I underlined the phrase with a teal marker.
  • The circus or anything to do with the layout or culture gets underlined in red.
  • If the text has to do with the lions (Sigh. How I love those lions.) that got marked in brown.
  • For anything pertaining to the timeline of the story or character ages, that was marked in blue.
  • Weather or anything to do with the climate – purple.

And so on…

I found the color coding process to be helpful for several reasons. Not only has it forced this impatient creative-type to read each page slowly and carefully, spending three to four times per page then I normally would, it’s allowed me to flip back and forth easily to fact check the different elements and cross-reference things. It allows me to make sure that if Ella is sitting on the back porch of Charlie’s caravan, that she had steps in place to climb up there. This story also has a hero who changes clothes more often than any other character in any book I’ve ever written in my entire life, so keeping his many ensembles straight was quite an adventure. 🙂

The easiest part about this proofing process? Reading a book that I absolutely love. Spending time with characters – both human and furry –  that have become an important part of my writing life, and truly, my heart.

The hardest part? Organizing the layout and orchestration of an entire circus. What an adventure! It’s meant keeping track of laborers, performers, tents, wagons and animals, all mixed within a culture that is one of a kind.

Oh and keeping the lions straight! While each of Charlie’s lions has a distinctness about him, they’re all massive, maned and male and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t mixing any of the big cats up during their scenes. Thus, much counting, labeling and brown marker. 🙂

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So this is what I’ve been up to the past month and what I’ll be doing for a few weeks more! What do you think about the proofing process? Do you tend to read books with an eagle eye, catching mistakes, or do you mainly just focus on the story for story sake? As an author, we try to be ready for all kinds of readers and so if you hear the snapping sound of Sharpie caps coming from my house for a few more weeks… you’ll know why. 😉

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