Othello demands from Iago the ocular proof, and I’ve spent the last month or so providing such, in a manner of speaking. I’ve been proofreading and copy editing an excellent new magic book, Details of Deception, by Greg Chapman, and I’m quite enjoying the process. That must seem a strange thing to say for such a potentially tedious assignment, but the book is so intriguing, and the author such a gentleman (not always the case in the niche world of conjuring), that I was glad to take on the assignment.
I’ve written before about some of the challenges of copy editing and writing a book of magic. Stephen Minch, one of the great writers and publishers of magic literature, has given magic writers a unique style guide. Because of magic’s technical nature, the text of a book about card magic in some ways more closely resembles that of a car repair manual than that of, say, a novel; so by all means if you are about to embark on writing a magic book, your first stop should be Minch’s guide. You can download it for free here.
I’d like to just briefly mention a few other practical things that I’ve learned to watch out for in an endeavor like this. Much of this can be applied to non-magic literature as well:
- Obviously the text must be free of typos and grammatical mistakes, that’s a given. But care must also be given to the font size and font type as well. It’s easy to import a section from one computer to another, or even a section typed on a cellphone, and not notice that the fonts or font sizes are not matching. Along with this, in this age of being able to italicize words with the stroke of a key, make sure that you’ve selected the entire word. It’s easy to miss an initial capital letter in a title.
- Illustrations need to end up in the proper order and in the proper place. After moving around paragraphs of text, the illustrations can get out of synch, both with the text and with their captions.
- Illustrations need to be accurate and consistent. Is the deck being held in left-hand dealing position or the right hand? Is it a mirror view or a real-life view?
- Are headings and subheadings in a consistent style? Is there a consistent style of section breaks following the headings?
- Check to see that the page numbers in the Table of Contents are accurate. Just because they were accurate in Draft 3, doesn’t mean that they are still going to be accurate in Draft 14.
- Check to make sure that the title pages and major chapters begin on odd-numbered pages. This is another area where the pagination could have been correct in an early draft, but got messed up afterwards, due to edits.
- Every magic effect must be worked out with a deck of cards in your hands. You need to make sure that you can actually follow the directions step-by-step, and you need to see that by following the directions you can bring the trick to a successful conclusion. There’s no way around this. If the author writes a passage which describes a card 17th from the top of the deck when it should be 18th from the top in order for the trick to work, there’s no way a mere scan of the text will find the mistake. Likewise, if a description reads, “the top card is now the Ace of Hearts,” you need to check that that will actually be the case. You don’t have to be able to do all the moves up to speed, but you should be able to get through them all, even if only in a novice’s manner.
I hope these few pointers will be helpful. But more, I think if you’re a card person you’re really going to like this book. I hope you find it a good read.