Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Copy Editing

This week before Christmas, I am going over the copy edited manuscript of a piece of my fiction due to come out next year. It is filling me with rage.

Let me make one thing clear -- I have had some very good copy editors in my thirty years of publishing, sharp-eyed men and women who have saved me from small stupid errors, from ridiculous misspellings, from referring to a character's blue eyes when three chapters ago they were brown. Good copy editors do much more than bring format and punctuation in line with the publishing house's style manual. They are the extra brain you wish you had.

However, not all of them are good. A few have delusions of grandeur, promoting themselves to co-authors. This is, unfortunately, one such person. When I write, "He blurted," I don't want it changed to "He said" -- blurting and saying are two different things. When I write that a character thinks "She was a good woman," I don't want that entire sentence omitted because -- WHY? The copy editor does not think she is a good woman? He doesn't think the character should believe that? He doesn't like sentences of five words?

I need to finish this job before I leave for New York to see my family for Christmas. If I don't finish it, I will carry this anger with me, which is no way to spend the holidays. So for the next few days, this is what I will be doing: rejecting the co-author I never signed a contract with.

7 comments:

liebja said...

I can't imagine a copy editor being allowed to do anything more than suggest spelling and punctuation changes AS NEEDED; the kind who also catch actual errors would be nice.
If we wanted random changes, we'd write screenplays!
How dare he! You have my entire sympathy.

Kendall said...

UGH! I hope you let you publisher know. I know two people in publishing who manage this kinda thing and I'm sure they'd want to know so they would know either not to hire the person again (my impression is that it's mostly freelancing), or at least watch them like a hawk/give them very strict guidelines/etc....

Sean Craven said...

When this happened to me, I found it easiest to go through the edited manuscript and mark any legitimate corrections with colored pen, then work on the actual manuscript.

(I got comma splices and exclamation points from the vermin-crusted swine. By the time I was done rubbing his greasy fingerprints off my prose my beard smoked with muttered curses.)

Here's a useful mantra from Jack Handey:

If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten.

Mauvais said...

Nancy --

I'm sure the copyediting process is different from author to author, but how does it work with you? Are you handed an electronic Word doc with track changes turned on, or a hardcopy to review?

Nancy Kress said...

I have an electronic copy with track changes. The system seems to work well and saves shlepping paper back and forth.

Orion said...

IANACE, Nancy, but shouldn't that be "schlepping"?

Pgag said...

Rightly said,good copy editors do much more than bring format and punctuation in line with the publishing house's style manual.They are the extra brain you wish you had.

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