It’s copyedits time!
Right before I headed off to California, my copyedits for THE ORPHAN QUEEN arrived. (This happened last year, too, with INFINITE, but this time I was able to get an extension. Hurrah! This year I am not doing copyedits on a plane and finishing them while battling a post-tour plague.) (This year I avoided the post-tour plague. Thank commas.)
So, if you know me at all, you can probably figure out that I love copyedits. Why? Well, because I like grammar and punctuation (I swear to it — oh my commas!) and this stage is usually pretty quick. I don’t have to make any big changes to the story (typically) and I always learn something from my copyeditor.
Some of you might be asking what the copyeditor does, besides catching typos (which is more than enough to keep her busy, with me). Well, her job is to put commas after my wells (since I almost never do — I’m sure she wishes I’d learn) and other grammar/punctuation things. She also notes continuity errors, suggests minor sentence changes for clarity, and a ton of other unsung-hero type things. Copyeditors do all the things you don’t notice in prose — the things you shouldn’t notice in a clean book.
It can be a little intimidating to get copyedits, though. You get this huge manuscript back with red marks all over it (or whatever color they like to use), and a ton of stickies or comment bubbles with notes asking for clarification or citing style guides for changes made in the manuscript.
My copyedits used to come as a stack of pages, but last year they became electronic, which is cool because it means I don’t have to lug around a huge pile of papers if I’m traveling. (At first I wasn’t so sure about this electronic copyedits thing. I was afraid I’d miss stuff. But emailing the file, rather than entrusting the manuscript to a courier service or the post office, is a lot faster and I’m not letting go of the only existing copy. I also get a few extra days, since I don’t have to wait for the mail.)
I do my copyedits in a few different passes. Like so:
Phase One: Look over all the changes and queries (those notes on the sides).
This lets me know how much work I’m in for, and it gives me time to think about my plan of attack. For THE ORPHAN QUEEN, my copyedits were actually pretty light, so this phase was extra fast.
Phase Two: Accept or stet changes, and address queries.
This part takes a little longer because, while simply accepting or stetting changes is not hard, sometimes I have to rewrite a sentence for clarity, or add/delete something. And because I’m me, I make all the changes in my Scrivener file, too, so I can have the most updated copy even after I send the copyedits back.
Phase Three: Reread the entire manuscript with the changes.
While there are several very smart people proofreading this thing before it gets back to me (copyeditor, proofreader, my editor), ultimately it’s my name on the cover, which means I need to be sure the final manuscript is as clean as possible. So I read the entire thing again to make sure that a) I’m happy with the changes, and b) everything reads smoothly.
For THE ORPHAN QUEEN, I’m going to make a few more minor changes throughout as I read through in Phase Three. Since I’ll be reading on a PDF on my iPad, marking changes as I would on paper, I’ll have to go through and add those to both the copyedited manuscript and my Scrivener file. And then, if I have time, I’ll read through one final time.
A lot of work? Absolutely. But since I want to publish only the best book I possibly can — it’s totally worth it. And as I said, copyedits are something I really enjoy.
(Sometimes I have imaginary conversation with my copyeditor about hyphens and commas.)