Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
5 Tips to Manage the Book Galley Journey

by James R. Preston

Once you finish your story, the penultimate step, proofing the nasty thing one more time may feel a bit like a chore. You can practically recite all of your sparkling dialog and dazzling descriptions, so how can you read it again and this time look for comma splices?

First, stop a moment and pat yourself on the back. 

You have finished a book! And you are willing to show it to someone! Let’s evaluate what you have accomplished. 

Many years ago, I read an essay by James Michener in which he said “there are half a million people in the U. S. who say they want to write a novel.1 Most of them will never start, and most of that group will never finish the book. Out of the fraction who do, most of them will never show it to anyone.”

You are part of a select group. 

Some Galley Perspective

Now comes the hard part -- Galleys. There’s so much time between completing a manuscript and publication that, if you are like me, you are on to other projects. Even though it’s not always fun, it’s time to go back over that novel. It has to be done, and you have to do it. 

Below is a timeline of my last Galley Journey, so you can see an example.

September 9

I get galleys of my new Surf City Mystery from the publisher. I’m stoked, to put it mildly. I start proofing. But, but…something is nagging at me, a little voice saying, “Didn’t I change that?”

I keep going. 

After five days of work, near the 80% mark, that little voice was now shouting. I couldn’t stand it, so I stopped work, got out my electronic copies and started comparing.

My galley was based on an out-of-date document.

I console myself. “Hey, it’s only five days of work. It could have been six.”

I talk to the publisher and we identify what happened.

September 20

I start over with the correct document. (I got it on September 15, but had to take a few days off.) 

September 30

I finish the proofing and send it off. There’s time, barely, to get a few early copies for my book signing. 

November 1

The paperbacks arrive. All is well. 

November 2

The hardbacks arrive. I proof the dust jacket. The leading — the space between lines — is off. The dust jacket cannot be used. 

November 4

The publisher creates new, corrected, dust jackets. Whew!

November 10

My publisher is now gun-shy and wants me to double-check to make sure all the corrections have been incorporated. Once more into the breach, dear friends.

Galley Journey Tips

Tip #1

Figure out how long proofing the galleys will take — then double that estimate. If you finish early, think how happy you’ll be!

How do you figure out how long it will take?

Let’s break that question down. This is really two questions, requiring two estimates.

  • How many hours will you spend on it?
  • And how many days will it take you to invest those hours?

Let’s break down the timeline for a 300-page manuscript. At 10 pages/minute that’s 30 hours. If you work on it six hours per day, that’s 5 days. But can you do 6 hours a day, 5 days in a row? Should you?

I can’t answer the first question, but my thought on the second is no – don’t do the proofing in marathon sessions. This is intense, fussy work and you want to be at your best.

Tip #2

Decide whether to print the document or edit it electronically. I’ve done both. This time I printed a copy. That allowed me to compare pages side-by-side, and that was useful.

It’s easy to photocopy the pages with changes and send them to the publisher. Electronically you can send the changes off with one mouse click.

Tip #3

I recommend you start with an electronic document naming convention and stick with it. You have to keep track of all the iterations of your book and mistakes can be costly.

Make notes for yourself on what the labels mean. In this era of electronic documents and “Save As” you will probably have multiple versions and that’s okay, as long as you keep them straight. Do not think you’ll remember which is which!

For example, what if you label a document RTBS10.20.22Final.doc. Clear, right? Now you hand it off for the first edit. It comes back marked up so it’s no longer final. How do you distinguish between the two?

One solution is to use numbers along with the dates so that the new one might be RTBS10.20.2022Final2. That works, and I strongly recommend writing down that the one with “2” is the first edit.

Your note might look something like “RTBS10.20.2022Final2 is the edited copy returned on this date and the changes have not been incorporated.”

I know, it’s a pain in the, uh, writing hand, and you may never have any doubt about which document is which, but if you do need to go back and figure it out, you’ll really need clear naming. 

Tip #4

Don’t just read it. Examine it. Focus your attention on each word, then sentence, then paragraph. Look for missing periods (you will find some), missing commas (you have established a convention about using commas with words in a series, right?), and spelling.

Even in this day of spell checkers, you can find “form” where you want “from.”

Tip #5

This is the flip side to number three. Remember that you are not polishing. You will see dialog that could be improved. Don’t do it!

Remember these are galleys, and that means paragraphs and pages count, and adding two words to a sentence can create a new line that moves the last line on that page to the next page — and so on. This way lies widows and orphans. 

Final Thoughts

Why was I willing to devote an essay to this topic? Why do I think it’s so important?

I’ve just been through the process and I’ve learned some things that I believe are worth sharing. But also, errors are “bumps” for your readers. They distract, and pull your reader out of the story. And they are elusive, hard to catch.

True story: years ago, I was reading a hardback first edition of a new techno-thriller by a writer I followed. I’m reading about a guy named “Rand.” In the next chapter, there’s someone called “Rend.” I thought, “Wow have I not been paying attention?” In the next chapter he’s Rend again.

You want more? In the first paperback edition of Larry Niven’s brilliant science fiction novel, Ringworld, a character is extending his birthday by traveling around the world ahead of the date change. Only one problem: he’s going the wrong way! Niven describes this in an essay so I’m not ratting him out. 

In the end, why was I willing to put in the late nights to get it right?

Only other writers like you will understand this, but it was my characters, the ones who spoke to me in the early days and told me their stories. I do this final journey through the galley process for them. They deserve to have a book that is as good as I can make it. 

Now it’s your turn. Have you proofed galleys? What was your experience like? When I read the Michener essay there was no Writers in the Storm. I was on my own, trying to figure it all out. Those days are gone! Help us out with what you have learned.

* * * * * *

About James

James R. Preston is the author of the multiple-award-winning Surf City Mysteries. He is currently at work on the sixth, called Remains To Be Seen. His most recent works are Crashpad and Buzzkill, two historical novellas set in the 1960’s at Cal State Long Beach. Kirkus Reviews called Buzzkill “A historical thriller enriched by characters who sparkle and refuse to be forgotten.” His books are collected as part of the California Detective Fiction collection at the University of California Berkeley. 

Find out more about James at his website.

Top Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay


1Helen Hull, ed. The Writers Book. (1950, 1956) Barnes & Noble, 10th printing.         

One of the best sources for advice I have ever found. I bought it when I was in college, and was struck by the Michener essay, “The Chances Against the Beginning Writer.” Since I was a kid and just starting out, I thought, “Well, that won’t be me. To this day it’s a great resource.

Read More
Why You and Your Characters Deserve some Ikigai

by Jenny Hansen

ikigai - interpretation of Japanese concept  - a reason for being as a balance between love, skills, needs and money - handwriting on a napkin with a cup of espresso coffee

Every so often, I read an article that makes me ponder this writing life and the characters we create. The one that prompted this post was Harvey Mackay's Try IKIGAI; The Secret for Happiness. "Ikigai" (pronounced Icky Guy) has been a hot topic in the business arena for a few years, but I hadn't stopped to think about the fiction possibilities until now.

What does ikigai mean?

This definition comes from Domestika.org:

"Ikigai is a Japanese word that loosely translates to 'a reason to live' or 'reason for being.' It’s a combination of the words iki (生き), meaning life and gai (甲斐), meaning worth.

"According to Japanese culture, we all have an ikigai: something that makes us happy, that we’re good at, and that allows us to make a contribution to our community. Finding your ikigai involves setting out on a continuous journey of self-reflection and personal growth that leads to the ultimate reward: a happy life."

You are here at Writers In the Storm because you have found your ikigai.

Or you're on a journey to find it, and you feel down in your bones that it's writing. You are at least facing forward toward your dreams, which is a mindset many people never achieve.

I am totally impressed with you, by the way! I hope you're impressed with you.

There are principles and books and tons of resources on ikigai. You can google and find scads of info. But data is not what's lighting me on fire today. Inspiration is what's lighting me on fire today.

This post examines how we can get some ikigai in our writing lives and how we can use our own journey for our characters.

How can you find your ikigai?

Circling back to that Domestika.org article I mentioned at the beginning of this article... "there’s no magic recipe, but two things can guide us: self-observation and a flow state of mind."

The authors recommend you ask yourself questions like:

- What do I enjoy most?
- What do I spend my happiest moments doing?
- When do I lose track of time?

You can ask yourself these questions, and I'd also recommend you ask your characters. What puts you into that "flow" state of mind?

What are the "Big Parts" of ikigai for writers?

Check out that photo up above. (Don't be distracted by that big cup of coffee or shiny pen. Look at the napkin.)

  • Outer Circle (going counter-clockwise): Love, Skills, Money, Needs
  • Inner Circle (going clockwise): Passion, Mission, Vocation, Profession

Now think about your writing life and what you like and dislike about it. Think about what frustrates you about it.

Some Outer Circle scenarios:

  • You love to write so much, you go get some skills. But the money doesn't come, and you still have needs.
  • You love writing so much, you stay at a day job to meet your needs while you get skills and (hopefully) start to make some money.
  • Maybe you don't love writing but you are so good at it that you make money doing it. You stay because it has become your passion and your profession.

An Inner Circle scenario:

  • Writing is your passion so you make it a mission to get some of that outer circle stuff. It becomes your vocation to get those stories out of your head. If you do great on the outer circle, it might become your profession.

I could keep going on all this around and around the circle, but it isn't my interpretation of it that matters.

It is your interpretation that matters.

Give Yourself An Honest Assessment

Sometimes when we get frustrated with the writing life -- or, heaven forbid, envious of someone who seems to "have it easier" -- it can help to take a look at that diagram and see if we are stuck in a particular place.

It's important to be honest, at least with yourself about where you are stuck and why.

For example, I have a day job that takes care of the money but I struggle with needs, which I see as time. Without time (because of the three-job-juggling act of day job, family, and writing), fiction can't be my full-time profession. Yet. Not without some unacceptable sacrifices on my part.

My Personal "Hard Road"

It was a long hard struggle for me to figure out how writing and publishing would fit into my life. I didn't really figure it out for my first five to eight years of parenting. Eventually, after many blows to my morale, I made the choice to let my writing take a back seat to parenting.

I'm not going to lie - I had to wiggle around and wrestle with my decision (a lot).

  • I tried multi-tasking
  • Writing on my lunch hour each day
  • Waking up one hour early
  • Going to bed one hour late
  • Giving up reading
  • Doing social media during tasks like cooking and movie-watching

And it stressed me out because I had no time for myself, and I was tired all the time. Babies teethe, get sick, wail, giggle, crawl, walk, and seduce you with that yummy smell on the back of their necks. I was so exhausted from trying to cram everything into my days that eventually writing became just another task on my parenting to-do list.

To put it into the perspective of this post, there was no ikigai in sight. No passion. Subsequently, there was no joy or meaning in my manuscript.

My biggest struggle?

Two messages -- inner and outer -- entwined and nearly choked the life out of me.

First of all, the dreaded "Should." The voice in my head lectured that "I should be able to be a new first-time parent while I work a part-time job, shop, cook, clean, blog, write, and complete any other number of tasks."


I could do all those things. But no, I absolutely shouldn't do all those things. Doing all those things made me lose my passion for almost everything.

The second (moronic) message bombarded me from the outside. You know the one. That sly innuendo society whispers, particularly to women, that "you can have it all" if you just [fill in the blank].

These two particular inner and outer messages were my death trap until my little one was about 6 years old.

Note: It doesn't have to be parenting kicking your behind. It might be caregiving, being the sole income in your house, or chronic illness.

For the record, you can indeed "have it all" IF...

  • You are independently wealthy, retired, or make enough money to hire out jobs like housekeeping, shopping, cooking, and childcare.
  • You give up things like leisure time, reading, and sleep.

I know so many writers who fall into these two ikigai-smashing traps. I know writers who give away all their energy to expectations and things outside themselves. I know writers who conserve nothing for themselves and their own joy.

What I wish for you, now and in the new year, is that you prioritize your own joy - that you chase your own ikigai.

It took me about five years to become 100% okay with my choice but when I did, my creativity blossomed. When I stopped stressing, I started writing more. It was magical.

This process of honest assessment about writing choices makes me think of Laura Drake's favorite quote from Randy Pausch.

Your Characters and Ikigai

You can put your characters through the same questions and scenarios we talked about above. Maybe they achieve ikigai through numbers, healing, childcare, building, farming. Maybe it's some other endeavor that transports their souls. Whatever their dream endeavor, you want to clearly identify the hurdles they must overcome to achieve it (so you can create some super-tall brick walls along their journey between page one and their dreams).

You are here at WITS, building on your writing dreams and creating community, so I expect that your ikigai is in your sights. Brava to you!

Have you ever explored the concept of ikigai? Which parts of the inner and outer circles are a struggle for you? What activities put you in a state of "flow?" We'd love to hear your story down in the comments!

About Jenny

By day, Jenny Hansen provides LinkedIn coaching and copywriting for accountants and financial services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 20 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

Top Photo purchased from Depositphotos.

Inspiration Sources:

Read More
Debunking the Myths of Developmental Editing

by Tiffany Yates Martin

Myth Busting stamped on an envelope

Thirty years ago, when I started in this business, having a writer directly hire a freelance editor like me was a relative rarity. With few exceptions you got an editor when you got a publisher—full stop.

But the explosion of indie and small-press publishing has seen a similar explosion in the services available for authors—which has also come with a roster of myths, hype, and confusion.

If you feel overwhelmed by all that noise regarding developmental editors, here’s a mythbusting primer on what you need to know.

Let’s start with the biggest myth:

You always need to hire a developmental editor

No, you do not. Authors have been successfully authoring for centuries, and yet the explosion of freelance developmental editors available for hire is a very recent phenomenon.

Yes, the publishing industry has changed—rarely can published authors expect the kinds of intensive hands-on in-house editing of a Max Perkins or Sol Stein these days; competition is far fiercer than it was; and indie and small-press publishing mean authors may get no editing at all unless they hire it themselves.

But the fact is, editing and revision are among the core skills that should be in an author’s toolbox.

Hiring an expert editorial eye can be wonderfully beneficial to your story and your writing in general—but let’s acknowledge the fact that developmental editing is a pricey proposition, often extending into multiple thousands of dollars. That is not within reach of every author—but finances are not and should not be a barrier to success in this field.

If you are self-pubbing or working with a small press that may not offer adequate editing, hiring a knowledgeable, experienced editor can be enormously useful in making sure your story is as effective and competitive as possible. (Learn how to make sure you’re getting that here.)

If you’re traditionally publishing you will have a dev editor—although it may not be as intensive an edit as you may want.

But there are other ways to get the objective feedback you need to see your story clearly—like good critique partners and beta readers­­­­. (You can find a beta reader questionnaire here to help elicit useful, actionable feedback; and find other alternatives to a professional edit here.)

What a good dev edit does is hold up the mirror to an author’s work so she can see whether her vision is conveyed effectively and fully on the page, and help her pinpoint areas where it may not be—and figure out how to address them.

I often liken it to hiring a professional contractor to manage a home renovation project. Will their expertise and experience make the job go faster, easier, and more smoothly? Very likely. But can you do the job without a general contractor? Of course you can. It may be more challenging, it may take longer, and there may be a sharp learning curve to get the results you want—but it can be done. (This self-editing checklist can also help.)

Dev editors are experts and know everything

Not always. In the explosion of services offered to authors since the indie- and small-pub revolution, there is a wide variety of skill and experience levels. There’s no official certification, standards, or governing body for developmental editors, so caveat scriptor—writer beware. (Learn what to know when hiring a pro here.)

Developmental editors are always right

Not necessarily. Not only do skill and knowledge levels vary, as in the above point, but storytelling and writing—as with any art—are subjective. A good dev editor is ideally reflecting back to you what’s actually on the page and helping you ascertain how well it fits your intentions and how effectively it’s coming across to a reader—and suggesting ways you might deepen, develop, or clarify these areas.

But these suggestions are only that. Ultimately this is your story and your vision, so take the edits that resonate and disregard those that don’t. (One caveat—sometimes a writer’s strong knee-jerk rejection of a suggestion may indicate a “darling” that could be hampering the story. Take time to let it sit and percolate, and consider whether the story might be stronger without it.)

Dev editors will "fix" your manuscript

That’s not what dev editors do. They aren’t a magic bullet or wand that will make your story publishable or a bestseller. They are a tool like any other tool in the writer’s toolbox—one that can help you see your work more clearly, deepen and develop it more fully and effectively, and get your intentions on the page. But the author is the one who must make the decisions of what to incorporate (or not) and how, and actually do the revisions, and that’s the hard stuff. A good editor can be your sherpa up Revision Mountain, but they can’t make the climb for you.

Dev editors know your story better than you do

No, they don’t. If an editor suggests they do, walk away. Good dev editors are working hard to understand your intentions, the story you want to tell—and to help you do that in the most effective way. We are drawing from the benefit of (ideally) extensive knowledge of craft and extensive experience working in the industry in helping to determine what is most effective and marketable. But you are the expert on your story; we are just the midwives helping you get it out.

Dev editors will pick your story—and you—apart  

Not exactly. Yes, a good dev edit is usually extensive and wide-ranging—and intense, what one author I work with called a “literary root canal.” But an editor isn’t (or shouldn’t be) looking to pick the story apart. I liken our job to that of a home inspector—our focus is to shine the light into every single corner and crevice and note areas where we see the story could be strengthened. We’re here to help you shore up the building so it stands strong, not to take it down. And editors can—and arguably should—also point out what’s already working well.

An editor’s overall approach should be respectful, constructive, and actionable. If they denigrate or dismiss you or your work, or try to take your story over and push their own ideas (rather than suggesting ideas drawn from your manuscript and supported with solid reasoning as to how they may serve your intentions), or tell you what’s “wrong” without suggesting ways to address any issues, find another editor. It’s not you—it’s them.

Dev editors should be successful authors themselves

Not really. Editing and writing are two closely related but very different skill sets, and just because someone is good at one doesn’t mean they are good at the other. Just as great conductors aren’t expert players of every instrument, or great coaches always star players, or great directors always great actors (or even good ones, often), great editors may not be great writers—and vice versa.

Judge an editor based on their editing: their experience, knowledge, and how well they seem to understand your work and intentions (from a sample edit, which I recommend never hiring an editor without)—not by their writing track record (or lack of it).

I’ve been a longtime contributor to Writers in the Storm, but scheduling conflicts mean that this will be my last post as I step away for now. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be part of this wonderful, supportive, knowledgeable, and inspiring writing community.

I hope you’ll visit me at www.foxprinteditorial.com, where you’ll find free resources and downloadables for authors, more of my writing on writing in my blog, info on my workshops and classes, and more.

About Tiffany

Tiffany Yates Martin

Tiffany Yates Martin has spent thirty years as an editor in the publishing industry, working with major publishers and New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling and award-winning authors as well as indie and newer writers. She is the founder of FoxPrint Editorial and author of the bestseller Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing and leads seminars and workshops for writers around the country. Under the pen name Phoebe Fox, she's also the author of six novels, including the recently released The Way We Weren't (Berkley/PRH). Visit her at www.foxprinteditorial.com.

Read More
1 2 3 635

Subscribe to WITS

Recent Posts





Copyright © 2022 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved