I can't believe what I'm holding in my hands (okay, not literally at this moment because I'm typing, but work with me...). It's the proof for my book, Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road and Trail Rides. A proof is the closest thing to a real book that the author gets to see before publication. My lengthy Microsoft Word document has been set into pages with photos, maps, graphics, and sidebars. It's everything but the front and back covers. Unlike during my last manuscript review, this time I can only correct typos and facts -- rewriting again will bring down the wrath of my editor. There is no more debating or fighting The Chicago Manual of Style.
Of course, I have seen all of this content before, to the point of intimate familiarity. I have written and rewritten, edited and re-edited, scrutinized, and fact-checked the text. I've selected and edited the photos and captions. I've drawn rough maps, reviewed the cartographers' work, and reviewed it again. But I've never seen it all together.
For the past 14 months I have been looking at Biking Wisconsin: 50 Great Road and Trail Rides as my guide for format and style. Now it's as if I am looking at that book but with my writing inside. Surreal. I'm reading a book for the first time, yet I already know the words. It's starting to sink in that this thing that I have created is almost ready for the reading and riding public. In just three months I will be a published author.