I have good reason to be excited. I’m reading the final galley for In Plain View, which is due out in June. (This is a sequel to Accidentally Amish in the Valley of Choice Series.)
The galley is the final chance to catch stuff. But it has to be only little stuff. Writers do not get to actually work in a galley file. We just get to ask the publisher for changes because the text is actually wrong, such as a space missing between words or unclear punctuation. The file is due to the printer imminently. At this stage, publishers are not keen to:
1. Change things that affect the flow of text and require a lot of design time. Or,
2. Make a lot of small changes that
a. Take up a lot of staff time to input.
b. Risk introducing bunches of new errors.
c. Could require another round of proofing.
Some writers don’t even read the galley of a book because they know at least one, and often two, proofreaders are at work looking at all the little stuff. But I still like to read the galley.
And I also don’t like to read it.
The small stuff doesn’t bother me. My list of changes I feel truly meet galley change qualifications is usually small, and I doubt I catch much a proofer doesn’t. What bothers me is the craft of writing changes I wish I were allowed to make. I find myself asking why I was so stuck on “raised an eyebrow” in that chapter or why I thought “affable” was such a great word that I had to use it four times. Or how did I write a whole novel and never specify what color a character’s eyes are? And, really, that dialogue exchange could have been so much sharper.
Should have. Could have. Would have.
The seeds of regret. The soil of discontent.
What in the world was I thinking? That’s a chronic question for writers when we read what we wrote weeks or months—or years—earlier. But we’re not the only ones that ask that question. And my writing is not the only area of my life that raises the question.
So here’s my advice for myself in those moments of squirmy self-doubt.
1. Give yourself some grace. You did a lot of things right. Focus on that.
2. Learn for the next time. Whether the issue is relational, work-related or choosing a paint color, you’ll be doing it again, so know what you want to take from the experience.
3. Accept help. We face few situations where it’s truly impossible to ask for and accept help to make a future experience more satisfying.
I hope these three simple points can help you with whatever makes you wish you had done things differently. Look to the future, not the past.