The Road Thus Far: Copyedits

I had grand blogging aspirations for the end of October. I was going to tell you all about Geneva, city of my heart, and about the Metropolitan Waterworks, my new favorite haunt in Boston, and maybe about how I helped pack five thousand books for the bookstore the other night.

But then copyedits happened. And that’s been my life instead.

What are copyedits, you ask1? Let me explain: After an author finishes with developmental edits2, your manuscript gets sent to someone who understands things authors often ignore, like grammar and sentence structure and where is the appropriate place to put a comma. Things that, it turns out, I know nothing about. Copyeditors also keep an eye out for things like inconsistencies in the stage business—two paragraphs ago you said this character had blue eyes and now they’re green, the wrench was on the table and now it’s in his hand—and some light fact checking—you realize this historical event actually took place two years after you said it did? Things like that. The copy editor also helps catch the annoying typos you didn’t notice before, thank goodness. Like when my computer decided when I typed Lord Byron, what I actually meant was Lord Bryan. Ah, Lord Bryan, my favorite of all the Romantic poets.

Then I as the author have to go through the manuscripts and address all the copy editor’s queries before sending it back to my editor.

I’ve learned a lot from copyedits3, such as the difference between further and farther, backwards and backward. Also there’s such a thing as a copulative verb4. And birthdays make calculating age somehow infinitely more complicated. And all right and alright are not the same.

Clearly, I know nothing.

Copyedits have put a weird dent in my confidence. When I turned in my developmental edits, I was feeling pretty solid, but I’m starting to get a little panicked about the fact that this book is about to become a book. Copyedits are the first step for me that has really carried this process beyond what I’ve done before I had a book deal. I keep thinking of the part in How I Met Your Mother where Barney is sick and Robin is taking care of him. Barney, in a fit of petulant Barney-ness, shouts at Robin, “I hate you!” At which point she goes to leave, having had enough, and he immediately whimpers, “Don’t leave me.”

gif 1gif 2In this scenario, I am petulant Barney, and my manuscript is long-suffering Robin.

I’ve been doing editorial work on this book pretty much constantly for a year and a half, and by now, I’ve read it so many times that I can’t see it as a whole anymore—it’s all fragments and pieces, draft upon draft overlaid on top of each other5, and I can’t make all those pieces fit together into a coherent story anymore. I can’t decide if that’s because it actually doesn’t make sense, or if it’s because anything will start to sound like nonsense after you read it a billion and a half times.

bowlSo part of me wants to throw this manuscript back at my publisher and shout, “Here just take it I never want to see it again!” but the other half of me wants to cling to it with my Gollum arms and never let it out into the world.

I hate you, don’t leave me. That pretty much sums up my experience with copyedits.

And now, I’m back to work. Gonna read this book again. One. More. Time.

bowl 2

  1. My mom and I were laughing the other day about how this time last year, not a single one of us knew what copyedits were. Now, with me writing this book thing and my mom working at a children’s magazine, suddenly it’s a household word. The times, they are a changing.
  2. These include the sort of things you think of when you think of editing a book—adjusting plot points, rewriting scenes, things like that.
  3. Though knowing me, I will probably not incorporate any of that into my writing because grammar is hard, yo.
  4. Not as sexy as it sounds.
  5. I keep working myself up into a frenzy over things I changed months ago. Clearly I’m losing my mind. Send help.
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5 thoughts on “The Road Thus Far: Copyedits

  1. Rachel says:

    Isn’t it funny how How I Met Your Mother is seemingly pertinent to every part of our lives. Good luck with those edits. I believe in you!

  2. Sharon says:

    You’re almost there, Mackenzie! Your Big Picture is solid. No worries. Your book is going to be great. I am certain of this. (And I like your new title, too, and understand why it’s stronger — even though I loved the old one.) Write on!

  3. 1. The HIMYM gifs are so great.
    2. I love explaining to people the difference between developmental and copy editing. No one EVER gets it.
    3. You do know things! Even copy editors need editing (see me sending grad school apps to a poet to read).

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