Once I hand in a book, I heave a big sigh of relief, but I know I'll see that manuscript again. And I do. After a certain amount of time, copy edits come. They used to show up on my doorstep; now they come on my computer. (The copy edits I have in hand now are for my June 2012 release, Bedding Lord Ned.) Hopefully, the editors will have identified all the problems--awkward sentences, places where I've been inconsistent (changing the hero's eye color for example), sentences where I've misspelled a word (maybe "it" instead of "if") or made some other error.
Copy edits are my last chance to make major changes to the story. If it's been a few months since I've seen the book, I may have lots of changes I want to make. In this particular case, I just handed the manuscript in at the end of September, so I'm not finding much I want to change--or at least I haven't yet. And I'm also hunting for typos myself. I think I might have been a copy editor in a former life--I'm finding little mistakes that no one else has flagged. Which actually makes me happy. If I didn't find any errors, I'd worry I'd let my brain and eyes glaze over.
Once I send the copy edits back--they are due on Monday--I'll see the story one more time in page proofs. This is the manuscript laid out like a book; changes at this stage can cost money, so I really try to limit myself to correcting typos--which hopefully, if I've done a good job at the copy edit phase, will be few and far between. And I know that no matter how closely I or anyone else edits, there will be mistakes that make it into print.
The other thing about copy edits and page proofs--I think many writers are so sick of the book by this point they want to throw it out and start over. I know I do. But I've learned to tell myself--or have my writer friends tell me--that I'm just too close to it to judge any more. I've been reading it in a way no sane reader would. I'm seeing all its warts, real or imagined. I want to be done with it and get back to the book I'm working on now.
It's time to kick this baby out of the nest and let it fly on its own.
And now the Bookmas clues: 1. Not a story by H.G.Wells. 2. I like to have my characters quote this guy.