Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two Heads Are Better Than One

... or maybe in this case, four eyes are better than two?

You’re probably wondering what I’m on about, although if you’re an author perhaps you can guess? Yep, I’m in the middle of doing rewrites/edits on my forthcoming novel, which means I’ve got someone else scrutinising my work – an extra pair of eyes checking it over. It’s a bit scary, to be honest. I mean, before getting to this point, the story is just that – a story I’ve written and sent to a publisher for possible publication. Once the edits arrive, that’s when it really hits you – this is going to be a proper book and people are going to be reading this! Yikes! It had better be good, or as good as I can make it.

Which is where the copy editor comes in ...

She/he can look at the story objectively, and at a distance I don’t think an author could ever achieve with their own work. I always find it amazing how people can have such different “takes” on things, but I know that if the meaning isn’t clear to the copy editor, I haven’t done my job properly and it needs to be rewritten.

I have to say this is my least favourite part of the writing process. It’s a bit like when we had to dissect some poor unsuspecting (hopefully very dead) frog back in high school biology. I just felt sorry for him, I didn’t particularly want to know how his organs fitted together or why some of them worked in a particular way! By the time I send my manuscript to the publisher, I’ve read it so many times I never want to see it again. Ever. So the last thing I want to do is tinker with it or try to analyse why a particular scene isn’t working.

However, I know my writing is far from perfect and that other people can see the mistakes more clearly than I ever will. Not just typos, but glaring plot holes and inconsistencies in the way characters act and so on. For each book I write, I think I’ll learn to catch these myself, but still they appear. So the editing is vital and there’s nothing for it but to knuckle down and try and see the story from the other person’s eyes, then hopefully improve it.

It’s very easy at this stage to start thinking “OMG, I’m a crap writer, why am I doing this and how could I have missed these things myself?” But that’s when you have to take a deep breath and trust your publisher/editor/copy editor – if it was really that bad, they wouldn’t have taken it on in the first place (would they?). Well, I hope not! So now all we have to do is make sure it’s as perfect as we can make it. I say we because it IS a team effort - we’re working towards the same goal.

Would the end product be as good without a copy editor? No way. So I’m very grateful and would like to send a big thank you to all copy editors out there – you probably deserve champagne and chocolates at the very least for putting up with neurotic authors like me!

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!


  1. I'm always amazed at how things can slip past us as authors, even after the many readings we give our manuscripts.

    I remember my very first copyeditor, years ago at Transworld, politely pointing out that I'd said on one page that a character didn't own anything in black, and then several chapters on I had her heading off to dinner in a black frock...

    So yes, I'm glad we have those expert eyes to catch the things we don't (though I do wish they wouldn't feel compelled to take my commas out as often as they do, since it makes extra work for me to put them back again :-)

  2. Oh, yes, and also correct the grammar when I've deliberately put in a specific tense! I guess we do go a bit "blind" though after reading it ourselves so many times so it's good with a fresh pair of eyes.