The copyedits on my second book are here.

The manuscript looks like it’s had a hard journey, stained and dirty, the corners worn off, bristling with little yellow Post-it notes.

A lot of little yellow notes. Really, a whole fucking mass of Post-its. And these urgently scribbled little notes are not trivial questions of grammar and punctuation, but probe deep into word choice, consistency, even the motivation for certain scenes.

It’s not going to be a walk in the park answering this stuff. Unless that park is in a bad neighborhood, after dark, with a mugger behind every clump of shrubbery.

I’ve talked to a few writers who deeply resent the questions copyeditors lard their manuscripts with. No one likes having their grammar corrected. Having your mistakes pointed out is annoying, even if you agree they are mistakes.

But having worked a lot as a copyeditor myself I’m more sympathetic.

And as a writer concerned with making my stuff better, I’m commited to the process. You’re not going to enjoy this. This may hurt a little. But it can make your writing stronger if you engage.

Remember: no one is ever going to read your manuscript this closely again.

A good copyedit should hurt. If in the course of answering queries you don’t swear out loud or at least feel your blood pressure float your eyeballs, at least once, then the copyeditor probably hasn’t done a very good job.

Because very few writers are so good and perfect that they never make mistakes. Most manuscripts will contain soft spots, places where you were not sure you got it across, but patched it together as best you could. Places where maybe you negotiated with yourself, supported a weak or dubious passage with spurious argument, straight-up denial.

And sometimes, you just miss shit. It’s always a slap in the face with a wet flounder when you come across some boneheaded error glaring up at you from your own manuscript. I didn’t know that was in there! you say. Holy fuck. How did that get there? I think my next door neighbor must have been breaking into the house and editing my manuscript at night while I was asleep!

No, uh-uh.

You put it there.

Now fix it.


1 Response to “Copyedits”

  1. October 17, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    It’s like going to the plastic surgeon. You go through that ugly, bruised stage, but you’re prettier when it’s done. At least that’s how I try to think of copy editors. I count on them to keep me from looking bad — even when it hurts.

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