Monday, March 30, 2009

Copy Editors of Doom (And Why You Should Treasure Them)

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I got a package Friday from my editor with more copy edits for The Shifter. We've already done one round, and there wasn't that much, so I assume this next round would be similar.

Oh, was I wrong. I think the first set was a test. I'm almost positive it went something like this:

COPYEDITOR-OF-DOOM: Send out the trial edits. If she doesn't curl into a ball and cry, we'll send her the real edits later. Bwahahah.

MINION-OF-DOOM: But Master, what if she can't handle the trial edits? Your power is greater than even you can comprehend.

COPYEDITOR-OF-DOOM: She must be tested! If we break her, we'll send a Grief Editor.

Well, I must have passed, because I got -- without warning or a grief editor -- the new copy edits.

Words do not do it justice.Which is kinda ironic, really. Its corners are bent, there are Post-it notes all over it. Marks in blue pencil (courtesy of Renee, the Master), notes on pink Post-its (from the freelance minions), green and pencil notes from my editor. There's might be five whole pages without a comment on them.

I burst out laughing when I saw it. I really did. It looks like it's been through a war. Sans blood.

It is truly a sight to behold.

And a side view...

Now, let's open it up...

I've poked a little (well, maybe a lot) of fun here, but in all honesty, I'm awed by these folks. Besides the punctuation and grammar catches, they spotted continuity errors and even spots where my protagonist's voice sounded off. And they were right.

They not only noticed inconsistencies, but they referenced which pages things were also mentioned on so I could easily see the difference. They explained when they wanted to change something and why (which shows a goal to educate as well as edit). They found where words were used one way here, and another way there.

I'm just floored. The attention to detail is amazing. A dozen people at least have read through this manuscript multiple times and no one else caught this stuff. And while some of it is house style edits, (the way this publishing house likes to do certain things), a lot of it is story related. Like the fact that when my protagonist meets another major character, she never introduces herself, yet six pages later he uses her name. No one caught that in almost two years of critiques and edits!

These people are amazing. Seriously.

Granted, I've never done this before, and this might be perfectly normal for all copy editors. My opinions here might be biased because they're my copy editors so naturally they have to be the best evah, right?

(But I still think they're totally awesome)

I can see why some authors hate this stage of the process. You work hard on a book and then tons of people stick their fingers in it and tell you what to do with your words. Seeing almost every page of your book with comments can be disheartening. But I've found it fascinating, and it's a great opportunity to learn. (Who knew I was using the word scoff wrong all these years?) I'm taking it as a personal challenge to have fewer Post-its for Book Two. It'll be my own little mini-game.

Bottom line, these folks are here to help make my book the best it can be. They're on my side, so how can I get upset that they're taking the job so seriously.

I feel a lot like the Verizon guy. I turn around, and there's all these talented folks standing behind me, backing me up.

And I'm grateful for every last one of them.

If you're looking for more to improve your craft (or a fun fantasy read), check out one of my writing books or novels:

In-depth studies in my Skill Builders series include Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), and Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It). My Foundations of Fiction series includes Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for plotting a novel, and the companion Plotting Your Novel Workbook, and my Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series, with step-by-step guides to revising a novel. 

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The ShifterBlue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize (2011), and The Truman Award (2011).

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It)Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structureand the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.
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  1. I LOL'd when I saw your pics too. WOW. Just WOW.

  2. Daamn! Wait, explains something, what are all the stickers for? And there's stuff written in the pages themselves! How will you get through all that?! It looks truly frightenig, I can tell you that

  3. Wow! Those pictures are both scary but amazing! How long did it take you to go through all of the notes and decide on changes?

    I quite enjoyed the conversation between COPYEDITOROFDOOM and MINIONOFDOOM - I am sure that is exactly how it went down :) Ironic that your book is about PAIN ;)

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  5. Janice,

    I wanted to stop by and say CONGRATULATIONS! (Just read about your news on the SiWC blog.)

    I was at Surrey also. Wonderful conference, especially for a first-timer.

    I'll be on the look-out for your book.

  6. Wow. Those pics make it look truly overwhelming, but it sounds like you've got an awesome attitude about it all. Good luck! :)

    - Shari, another SIWC-er

  7. I'm shocked they still use post-it notes. It'd be cheaper and easier to navigate if they used Word 2007 to add notes.