Thursday, March 23, 2006

Copyediting update

It has not been pretty around here at Fernham. When I anticipated what my copyedited manuscript would look like, I feared the red pencil of a stickler or the queries of a smart but pedantic and unsympathetic reader. Instead, my copyeditor did very little at all.

Sure, she went through the whole manuscript and painstakingly marked every footnote reference, em-dash, accent mark, and italicized word, but I have found dozens of appalling errors that she missed. Worst of all, these errors are mine: I’m disappointed that she didn’t catch them, but I’m the one who wrote a couple sentences without capital letters, who began one sentence with “in particularly," who typed “as” when I meant “at.”

Every time I catch an error, I feel a tremendous wave of relief. This soon ebbs and a briefer echo wave of anxiety touches the shore. What else am I missing?

I find that, in a rather brief book, I’ve used the word diminution four times. I have a habit of piling on noun phrases linked only by commas. Sometimes I like the rush of this but, at other times, I don’t quite know why I didn’t have time to write and. I’ve had to look up hubbub, hard-nosed, and grass roots.

The Chicago Manual is my best friend. Chapters have been farmed out to my husband, my colleague, my writing group. (See what I mean about avoiding and--that’s just how that sentence came out.) I have been through the whole thing, quickly, once, and have a week and a bit to go through it again. So, that’s what’s going on here.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I do that, too! The three things separated only with commas. I've been noticing lately that I do it a lot. :/

I like how you said that, "the rush of it." Justifies it for me...

(I do that a lot, too. Trail off in ellipses...)

Anonymous said...

but I prefer it -- the lack of "and." My thing I do ? -- dashes -- lots of them.

The list of three, separated by comma, works well though. In my humble opinion.

Bud Parr said...

Because I'm a slow reader, I've found that all books have errors, (some are really bad) but I doubt most notice them. Hardly a consolation, I know. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about the lack of substantive corrections by your copy editor. Yes, you'll never catch them all, but a good copy editor will catch grammatical/mechanical/typographical errors and even just repetitive/poor phrasing.

Unknown said...

It's lovely to hear from other writers who like the zip and fling that I like in prose. But, like Bud, I know that most books do have errors and, when I catch them, I dislike it. Sometimes, I even get really grouchy.

So, it's been weird to have to take off the stylist hat, the part of me as a writer that wants my prose to be lovely, and put on that of the stickler. It's not my forte, but I'm finding that I'm not terrible at it.

It's certainly easier than invention...

In any case, thanks for all your bits of encouragement. I'm off to the NYPL now...

Louise said...

Your style is you; don't let them copy-edit it out, for then it becomes merely text.

Good luck and remember, there is no such thing as a book without a mistake.