Sunday, 3 October 2010

Copy edits...

My copy edits are back. Both the US (who got them to me first, but gave me a longer deadline) and the UK versions. So I'm currently in the middle of going through them with a fine-tooth comb, making sure that I'm happy with the changes that have been made.

I've been doing it for a couple of days, and I'm in awe of copy editors. I must have read Before I Go to Sleep countless times now, either in chunks or as a whole, and all four of my English language editors have also read it so many times that really they deserve a medal. Yet still the copy editors have spotted so many mistakes I've made.

And I've made them all. Words repeating in in the same sentence? Check. Sentences in which order the word is messed up reason totally for some? Check. Missing question marks. Check. Forgetting to close quotation marks? "Check...

I've slipped into the past tense in the middle of a present tense section, forgotten to edit out the dreaded pluperfect (dreaded to me at least - I had no idea how addicted I was to the pluperfect until someone pointed it out to me). I already knew I had a tendency for characters to nod so vigorously and for such a long time that they ought to be seeking medical help for whiplash (and that's when they're not enduring pauses that are longer and more frequent than a particularly tense Pinter play), and I was aware that in the first draft one character puts his knife and fork down seventeen times during one meal without picking them up once, but I am particularly grateful to the copy editor who pointed out that one character describes something that had already happened as occurring 'soon' and to another who spotted that when my main character says, 'So you told me that ......' the person to whom she is speaking has said no such thing. Copy editors have to know when an author (i.e. me) has confused a scientific instrument (a Van de Graaff generator) with a prog rock band (Van der Graaf Generator) as well as when an author (still me I'm afraid) has a character remarking on the aroma of a flower that doesn't have a smell. They google guest houses to make sure that the dingy, run down establishment that the author has named doesn't actually exist (oops!) and check that the motorway the characters travel down is actually a sensible route from where they live to where they're going (yippee! I actually got that one right!). Like I said, I am in awe.

And I'm only two thirds of the way through...

3 comments:

Pam (The Reader) said...

What a great (and funny) post! I think we are all prone to these mistakes. I can see the value of great copy editors!

Pimlicokid said...

Encouraging and only confirms how much help we need towards the end. One published author I know recently had to insist that his publisher used a copy editor.
The editor found more than 300 things to change/review and the author agreed with virtually all of them.

Cynthia said...

As a freelance copy editor who often feels a bit underappreciated, I thank you for your column.