Gavin E Parker: Interview 2018

We caught up with Gavin E Parker on 27 August, 2018, almost eighteen months after we last got together. Here’s how it went down.

It’s been about eighteen months since we last spoke. What have you been up to since then?

Oh, this and that. I published The Ephialtes Shorts Collection and Phobos Rising, the second novel of the Ephialtes trilogy.

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Finally finished at last again

I guess some things never end.

I read someone somewhere saying about – was it books, or music or film? I don’t remember, but they said something like, ‘You don’t ever finish them, you just let them go.’

I’ve completed my latest read through of Ephialtes in paperback. That must have been about the tenth time I’ve read it from start to finish, excluding all the times I’ve read individual chapters or scenes. And still they come – the typos.

This time around I picked up two hundred and fourteen required corrections. To be fair, around three or four of these were missing words or punctuation and a further five or six were minor editorial adjustments. The rest were hyphen-based.

Obviously, I’d like the finished article to be polished to a dazzling shine, but I think I may be at that ‘letting go’ point. I’ve been here before, of course, and how foolish those times seem to me now. But this time? I don’t know, I think this might be it.

I had a skim through my digital proof before ordering a hard copy. I noticed I had ‘air-lock’ in there somewhere, where it should be ‘airlock.’   I guess I’ll stick that on the pile for the next go-over, should there be one. If there isn’t, maybe I’ll come to treasure that one little rogue hyphen. Maybe that’s the necessary flaw that sets off the perfection about it.

Or could it just be that I can’t face going through the whole damn thing again?

Definitely the former. That’s what I’m telling myself; definitely the former.

Please talk about typos again, please

Everyone loves typos. I know it’s cheap, but since I’m here to garner popularity I’m going to go on about typos again. I spoil you, and you know it.

I’m ploughing through the paperback proof of Ephialtes and noting required corrections. I’m up to page 184 (of 464. Tiny font too, so it’s lots of words) and have 118 minor corrections so far. I say minor – I think there are a couple of missing words and a few instances of minor editorial tinkering, too – because the bulk of these corrections concern the use and misuse of hyphenation. Ain’t that funny?

I’ve already mentioned that, of all things, I had quite a bit of gyp with capitalisation, and that’s weird enough, but who’d have thought that hyphens could be such a bother?

So this is my top writerly tip for the day: keep on top of your capitalisation and hyphens, and the rest will look after itself.

There. Is that enough typo-talk for you? Right then, on your way. Don’t you have homes to go to?

I think I might read a book

Today is another day chasing typos. I’ve checked my proof, and although the formatting is great (one scene was unjustified – typographically speaking; there are loads of scenes that are unjustified generally) typos are popping up all over the place.

I’ve looked at the first four chapters so far (of thirty-seven) and have a list of fifty corrections to make. Most of these are odd uses of hyphenation, things like ‘fire-power’ where it should be firepower. It still seems strange to me that I missed so many of these previously.

A thing that interested me, as it was not what I was expecting, was that when I came to revising the first draft the thing that caused most problems for me was capitalization. Really. My book Ephialtes is set during a future conflict between Earth and its former colony on Mars. So I have lot of generals and majors and so forth. On the political side of the conflict there are presidents, secretaries of defence and foreign affairs and whole load of other people with fancy job titles.

The capitalisation of these titles is trickier than you might think. Look it up if you’re interested, but it changes according to how the title is being used (indirect address, direct address etc). I’m still not quite sure if I’ve got it right for all my uses of ‘army’ (an army is just army, but a specific army might – might – be Army, depending on how it’s being used. Nightmare.

Anyway, I’m settling down today with the paperback of Ephialtes and noting all the little errors that I thought had been put to bed weeks ago. It’s somehow nicer to be reading a paperback than an A4 manuscript, but there’s still that dread feeling that this process will never end.

Still, there’s worse things I could be doing.

Proofs at last

I now have proofs of two versions of the Ephialtes paperback. One has dodgy margins, both have dodgy covers. The cover image is a spacescape. When printed, most of the stars are too small to be visible. Also, the deep blue is very deep, and some details are lost. I can live with that, but I need those stars so I spent some time last night making them bigger.

This is the first time I’ve had a proof of a book to peruse. Somehow the book seems more like a book now it is a book, if you can follow that. Now its compact, laid out in Garamond with proper covers and feels slightly heavy in the hand, it is somehow very ‘book.’

My next task (having fixed the cover) is to laboriously check the formatting, page by page. I’ve had a glance through and have already noticed some typos (particularly annoying as the formatting seems pretty good). Don’t those things ever give up? It seems somehow miraculous to me that there are any left, but they still keep coming. I’ve read that thing over and over again, sometimes literally one word at a time. Many times I’ve thought, ‘That’s it, done. There may be one or two sneaky typos hidden in there somewhere, but I’ve got most of them,’ only to come across a glaring error moments later. For instance, I have ‘one hundred thousandth’ hyphenated. How did I miss it? Moreover, how did I miss it ten or fifteen times? What other howlers are sat there, hiding amongst the text, ready to mock me in their simple discovery?

I guess at some point you just have to let your manuscript go. Sure, there will still be errors in there, but I’ll collate them and create a ‘revised edition’ somewhere down the line.

Funny thing is, even knowing as I do how hard it is to eradicate these bastards, I still can’t help thinking badly of other people’s typos. ‘Couldn’t you even be bothered to check’ I will loftily think, sneering as I wrap my cape about me. I know, from bitter personal experience, that that is not a justifiable position, but it is how I feel in my gut. I can switch in my manual override (‘I know that seems lame, but I bet that person had as much trouble as I did trying to stamp those out’) but deep down my animal brain will be thinking, ‘Look at that typo. Twat.’

As a self-publisher you don’t get an editor. If I had one I could blame them for any errors. In fact, I’d turn that magnanimous, ‘of course, the errors are all mine,’ thing on its head. ‘Any errors are my editor’s fault. Blame them. What am I paying them for, anyway?’ I would say in my gracious preface.

But I don’t have an editor, so what am I going to do? Well, try my hardest to chase the little blighters down and otherwise just take it on the chin. It would all be my editor’s fault, if I had one, but don’t, so I’ll have to grudgingly concede that all the sloppy errors in Ephialtes belong to me, and me alone.

Also, in accordance with Murphry’s Law, there will be a typo in this piece itself. Twat!

The proofs is in the pudding

I ordered some more proofs, again with known issues.  While quickly checking the digital proof for widows and orphans, I noticed a sentence with no full stop at the end.

I ordered anyway, because I thought it was a minor issue and there would almost certainly be others.  And lo!  I’ve come across a few more today.  I’ve been through that thing with a fine-tooth comb and yet still they come.  The Typos.  The Bloody Typos.

The margins was a big deal.  I think I had a brain-out there.  This time I knew what I was doing.

I’m going to have to read the whole thing again once the proofs arrive (not too much of a chore because it’s go gripping and exciting.  Don’t just take my word for it, pre-order your own copy today!)  I’ll have to  make notes and whatnot.

Also, I decided to blow out Smashwords.  I tried to read the Smashwords Style Guide and, through swirling clouds of hate, thought better of it.  I’m going to stick with Amazon, the place where most people buy their books anyway.  It’s a bigger market and much, much easier to submit to (in every sense).  Hard to justify the effort with Smashwords, given the scraps you might pick up there.

Unless anyone can advise me otherwise?