• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

In Case You Thought All A Writer Does is Write…

Home again, after DragonCon, with different kind of work to hand: The publisher sent _both_ the copyedited ms. _and_ the first-pass galleys to my hotel in Atlanta, with the request that I process them simultaneously (ak!), to save time. Which means, theoretically, reading the copyedit and responding to queries, checking marks, etc.–then transferring all markings to the first-pass galleys, and in the process, proof-reading the galleys, in case of errors introduced by the typesetting. _And_ in the process, filling in any still-missing square brackets/additional bits.

The kicker here being that this is my first AND ONLY chance to read and correct the ms. before it goes to the printer. And it needs to be done by Sept. 20th.

Oooookay. So my plan is:

1. Proof the galleys first. Read with no distraction, fix any errors, mark anything (like empty square brackets or questionable bits) for later fill-in.

2. Read the copyedited ms., side by side with galleys (mind, the pages don’t _match_, as the copyedit was done on a printout of the revised ms., not on a printout of the galleys), answer all queries, and transfer all approved markings to the galleys. This will be the slowest part.

3. Paste in/append insertions of Gaelic–these are numerous, and owing to the fact that Gaelic is unfamiliar to typesetters (i.e., they can’t tell what a Gaelic word is _supposed_ to look like, and can therefore easily misspell them), the bits need to be provided _in type_, rather than handwritten (know from bitter experience that typesetters routinely mistake “r” for “v” and “n” for “m” when reading Gaelic insertions done by hand). I’ll print the pieces (on separate pages) and staple them to the relevant galley pages.

4. Write, print, and append auxiliary material: Dedication, Acks, Author’s Notes, and Glossary. (The Author’s Notes are mostly written already, and the Acks roughed out. Dedication is the work of a few moments–but the Glossary needs to be compiled _from_ steps one and two, above, words being added as I go through the ms.) These then need to be proofed, as well.

5. Consult all notes from beta readers and be sure all errors and questions have been addressed.

6. If time, read Whole Damn Thing again when complete. Also if time, make copy of WDT and have assistant proof-read, too, extra eyes being useful (but not all that useful during preliminary phases, as many errors will have already been caught and new stuff hasn’t been added yet).

That’s the Major Thing that needs to be done over the next weeks. On the other hand, really don’t want to go without writing for that long (and wanting very much to dig into WRITTEN); likewise, doing too much proofing at a stretch is counter-productive, because you start reading too fast and imagining–rather than really seeing–what’s on the page. So goal is to proof for an hour or so at a time, with a goal of processing 150 pages a day (I can effectively proof/process about 30 pages an hour), and during breaks, write stuff. (Besides WRITTEN, I have an essay on “Dr. Who” for a small anthology, and the novella about Michael and Joan, due in November. And, of course, there’s always stuff for OCII…). Also resume regular exercise routine (can’t usually keep this up while traveling, particularly not if doing constant events)–walk five miles a day, regular stretches and weights in the morning, half-hour stationary bike or swim in evening.

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117 Responses »

  1. Lot’s of work. Enjoyed your talk at the bookstore in Atlanta and appreciated your answering the question on how you keep everything organized. Today’s post was another good example. Hope it goes well and quickly so you can get back to the writing.

  2. Hi Diana,
    I truly feel your pain. I had to do this very thing in the spring with my last non-fiction book, which was huge, 500 pages. My best friend and co-author passed away on Christmas Eve from breast cancer so I had to soldier on alone, very sad and devestated, as you can imagine. I had a fab editor, but this is a horse book and she’s not a horse person. So I had to help with picture selection, captioning, myriad questions, organization, etc. We had very little time because my publisher wanted a summer release. Luckily my galleys were sent by email and I bought an iPad app called PDF Annotate and a stylus. I could mark the PDFs right on my iPad screen and email annotated pages from the app. I could unchain myself from my desk and work wherever, made it so much better! The book came out last month and all that hard work is now a faint distant memory. Now the book signings and obsessive google news alerts begin! The editing process is very long and tedious. So many steps to take before publication.
    My publisher asked me last month if I could write a chicken breed profile magabook in two months. I swallowed hard and said…uh, sure?!
    Go on, ask me about the Scottish Dumpy! Yes, that is a chicken. A very old and endangered breed.

    • Dear Sharon–

      Congratulations on your latest book–and good luck with the chickens! {g} I’d _love_ to hear about the Scottish Dumpy!


      • Hi Diana,

        Okay, here goes! The Scots Dumpy is a 700 year old breed, and was a prize “watch bird,” allerting the Scots and Picts when the Romans came a’calling. It was (and still is) a dual-purpose bird beloved by crofters. Its name tells you a lot about it—it’s dumpy. It has short little (two inch) legs and a stocky body. The breed had nearly become extinct by the 20th century but stock was found in Kenya from birds taken there in 1902 by Lady Violet Carnegie. The hens make very good mothers, and gamekeepers used to use them to raise game bird chicks. The breed lays white eggs, has a single comb, and is found mostly in cuckoo (which is a striped gray color) although white and black are also found.

        The Rare Breeds Survival Trust in England has this bird on their endangered list. For more info you can visit http://www.scotsdumpyclub.org.uk.

        Now back to your galleys!!

        Sharon : )

      • Dear Sharon–

        I am entirely charmed to hear about the Scots Dumpy, and will make every effort to include some in the next book. {g} Thanks!


      • Sure thing, Diana! Glad I could help. They are sweet little guys. And worth saving due to their history and rare bloodlines for sure.
        So many neat animals have come out of Scotland. Horses are my specialty, obviously. I hope one day to go to Shetland and Eriskay to see the ponies in their native habitat. I’ve seen the New Forest, Dartmoor, and Exmoor in England but have yet to get to see the horses in Scotland.

        Let me know if you ever need any horse history. Now the Scotch Galloway. That was an amazing horse. Extinct now, sadly. But Jamie would have ridden one. : )

    • When they mate, you could say “Humping Dumpies” can result in bad eggs. Avian copulation is often referred to as treading. Their short legs (about 2 inches) could make falling while treading more likely. The homozygous genotype for the characteristic limited leg length is lethal (chicks die before or soon after hatching) according to the online info. They have a waddling gait, may have difficulty foraging, but are docile and meaty. Breeding for traits that cause disabilities is a questionable practice. Why did the chicken cross the road? To show the armadillo it could be done.

  3. Does your day by any chance have more than 24 hours ? If so, please let me know how you did that…

  4. Although you are not a professor anymore, it looks like you are just as busy as one, if not more!
    JFDI – Just focus and do it

  5. All I have to say is WOW! and Thank you!

  6. Yikes! That’s a busy schedule! Thank you so much for being at Dragon*Con. It was great to have you sign my copy of The Exile.

    You mentioned Doctor Who?!?! When will that anthology be out? My husband and I are big Doctor Who fans.

  7. oooookay.. so your plan is…

    1. write a blog post. every writer’s favourite form of procrastination. :)

  8. I’m exhausted just reading that. We are infected with a Dr. Who Mania at our house right now. My two teenaged daughters are even making duct tape daleks and custom tee shirts and listening to Trock (Timelord Rock, what will they think of next?). Nice to know that the geek doesn’t fall far from the Tardis, though…

    • Dr. Who Mania has also infected our house, though no dalek making is going on. I love time travel when it’s well done–Who and Gabaldon being fine examples. So “live long and prosper” and “may the Force be with you.” P.S. You might also like the books of Jack Finney for another fix of well done time travel.

    • My household also sits riveted before the television when Dr. Who is on.
      Just like ‘Herself”, D.G.’s fans are have eclectic tastes.
      Warmest regards
      Antipodean Janet

  9. As someone who once proof-read for a living, I fully understand. It is incredibly painstaking and so necessary. But your eyes do tend to give out after a certain amount of time and your brain, if pressed
    too hard, takes little side trips usually at the worst possible time! However, the end result is always worth it.

    Your books are a joy to read and don’t contain a lot of errors so the proofing is working well!

  10. How come other authors get away with writing bad grammar and sentences that are 100 words long? I won’t mention any names…
    I, personally, am going to have a glass of wine and toast all of your hard work [maybe this is why famous writers like Hemingway DRANK?]

  11. I don’t think Hemingway had 1/4 the reason to drink that Diana does!

    Saw your tweet and then read the blog. The things you do for us! I feel guilty just sitting here.

  12. Hello!
    I have never asked a famous author a question before so forgive me if I sound a little silly!
    I hear that you are finishing up the Outlander Saga( Which I love by the way, I can’t wait to read the next one) But I was curious wether or not you thought of possibly in the future writing a novella of Fergus and Marsali? They are just one of my favorite couples and it would be sweet to read a little more about them from your perspective. (Fanfiction would just NOT be the same) As someone wanting to be a writer someday, I can’t write for other people and what they want first, it has to be for me so I am not going to be a demanding/crazy fan about it. But again, I was just curious :) Hope the writing adventures continue to go well!

    • Dear Laura–

      I don’t know about “finishing up” the series–where did you hear that? I never know how much ground I’m going to cover in a book (I don’t plan them out ahead of time), so I have no idea whether Book Eight is the last one or not. But I do–and have of late been doing more–do novellas that are part of the story, but focused on minor characters, so who knows? Though I think you’ll see quite a bit more of Fergus and Marsali in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD.


  13. When do you sleep?

    I just wanted to say that I am currently reading Echo In The Bone and I am near the end. I have mixed feelings…I want to finish to book to see what happens, but I don’t want to finish the book and know that I don’t have another book to start. I am hooked!!

  14. Join the crowd, ever since “I Am Woman” was sung, most working women have to live up to some super-hero status!!!!

    I’ll bet your profession gets paid a lot more than I do. And being in the arts field, I try never to proof- read what I’ve written or worked on. As you said, I think I see the right words, even if their wrong.

    But let me tell you this Diana, and I suspect many others feel as I do, we appreciate all that you do. Cause we all can work our butts off, and then relax and dream in the worlds that you have created!

    Thanks for your creative mind, and your desire to share all with us! Best regards. Patty

  15. Wow….being a writer is so glamorous….

    • Dear cj–

      Oh, you bet. {g} I explained to an elderly uncle once what it was I did. He nodded thoughtfully and replied, “Well….at least it’s _clean_ work.”


  16. Hi Diana,

    My lovely wife and I had the pleasure to listen to you in Fergus this year. We have enjoyed your books and like everyone else are hanging for the next work of art. So while I am waiting I have started to re-read the series. And if I may ask a question that has had me wondering for some time …. in the Outlander at the beginning .. Frank was returning from Mr Bainbridge’s house, and he encountered “a Scot” looking up at Claire brushing her hair, … “Big Chap”, …”And a Scot in complete Highlands rig-out, complete to sporran and the most beautiful running head – stag brooch on his paid” … My question is, is this Jamie, did he time travel .. . I know he hasn’t (to date) heard the stones or is it Roger who came looking for Claire in 1945 ????. Or am I just seeing a story line where there isn’t one (yet) …Anyway … really looking forward to the next chapter in the journey of Jamie and Claire. Thank you

    • Dear Ray–

      Thanks! I’m really glad you and your wife are enjoying the books! {smile}

      As for the ghost–that’s Jamie, of course. As to why and how….we’ll answer that, but it will be the last thing in the last book.


  17. Dear Diana,
    this is Maurizio, translator for the Italian blog SognandoLeggendo. You had agreed to an interview by e-mail. Have you got the questions? I hope so. I’ll send the file again right now, please let me know if you got it.

    Sincerely yours,


  18. Can’t wait to read your essay on Dr Who. My whole family is addicted to the Dr. Someof us for longer than we want to remember. My fifteen year old daughter is starting a Dr Who club at her high school & is into listening to Chameleon Circuit on her zune. Love all your work and of course can’t wait for the new stuff!

  19. Here I sit after 6 PM; an hour after work and I’m still here. Why, because this lazy reader has become capitvated by an enchanting series of books by an incredibly talented and brilliant author. At 60 years of age myself and enduring a troubled marriage, please note that romance left me a long time ago. I sit here with my feet up on my desk, munching popcorn and taking some stolen minutes to escape into the world of Jamie and Claire. I enhaled the first book and now I realize how much I needed to read this work of art. A co-worker, who is an avid reader left her book behind a few weeks ago and I thought I poke around in it just for fun. Of course she came back and got her book, but I didn’t think I’d be pushed like I was later the following week to read more.

    I was at a garage sale for a community theater group. I sit on the board of directors of this non-profit organization. Another board member brought this book called Dragonfly in Amber to sell in the garage sale. I picked it up and she said, “Oh, Trudy! I think you’d really like this!” She told me a brief description of the book and put it in my hands to take home. I read a few pages an thought how interesting that the woman in this book was called Claire like the one Karen was reading at work.

    I saw Karen that following Monday and told her about the coincidence and she said, “Bring the book to work tomorrow. I have a funny feeling.” I did what she asked and the following day, she handed me her beloved, (AUTOGRAPHED on 7/28/01) copy of Cross Stitch. Karen told me about the series and that I MUST start with the first book. She told me when I finished one book she’d loan me the one next in line.

    Thank you for taking me away and placing me in a world I might have been quite happy in, Diana Gabaldon. Thank you for the escape. I’ve cried, held my breath and gone through various emotions while reading your work and you may have very well saved my sanity. You’re awesome.


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