Sunday, October 30, 2011

Copy Edits or the Ghost of Sr Mary Eleanor

Pitcure by 
Another milestone has arrived in my writing life - my first set of copy edits. Gulp. Lashings of red everywhere and it's easy to feel a huge failure. This really plays to my insecurities a bit like Christina's last post about reading aloud - they are tied together for me. I am dyslexic.

For me this means spelling is an obstacle of sometimes insurmountable proportions. I can be faced with a word that I can't even look up in dictionary because I don't know where to begin. Then of course there is also the fact that there are tricky words like is a mine field. I find I frequently 'dumb' down what I want to right (ooops write! and I just spotted that before I pressed the published post button) because I can't spell the words I normally use in speech and this can lessen the impact and meaning of my story or thoughts I'm trying to convey.

So I was dreading the copy edits. In my mind it was going to be like my high school senior year Advancement Placement English teacher was coming to haunt me. Sr Mary Eleanor took no prisoners and didn't understand that I didn't see spelling mistakes. After one essay test where I spelt Johnson five different ways she took me aside and told me that if I had one more spelling mistake in her class the A that I deserved would never be attained. I graduated with a B+.

If you are a writer, you know that reading your work aloud is vital. With me this doesn't work as words move. I don't see them move, but I pull words from the page and make new sentences - perfectly good ones, but not the ones written on the page. (reading aloud in a class was a nightmare). For my writing, I have fixed this problem with text to voice ears are not dyslexic. However homophones still can slip through...

So back to the copy edits..THE CORNISH HOUSE has been edited so many times and yet there are still tons of errors, but thus far I have escaped the spelling ones - except the English vs American ones. I am in awe of the copy editor's skill to find them all.

It appears I also lack the ability to use a comma...where I have used one it's wrong and well I never use them when needed. See Sr Mary Eleanor was correct all those years ago to deny me my A.

I am also in I mentioned I have been so hard on this script especially on my tendency to repetition and yet the copy editor has pointed out all my characters are sighing, shaking their heads (maybe 70 times) and sitting up straight that they must be exhausted from the strain....just goes to show what we don't 'see' in own work no matter how closely we look at it.... at least I haven't changed anyone's eye colour half  way through or their name in this script - I wouldn't want to put some others up to scrutiny.

Have you been copy edited? If so what is your biggest slip-up? If not what do you think yours would be?

Come back on Thursday to hear from Biddy...


  1. Lots of authors receive scripts covered in red, don't worry. It's good that the copy eds pick up mistakes and repetitions, though I don't always agree with their love of commas!

  2. Wow. Respect, Liz. As a person with rheumatoid arthritis, I can only relate what you do with me attempting an assault course.
    Kind regards, Laura James.

  3. Thanks Susie...not sure I dare to say no to the commas as I am so hopeless at them...

    Not sure it's an assault course but at times it feels that way :-)


  4. Yes, Liz, as you know I've been copy-edited. And the most humbling this was the place names I mis-spelled. I'd scrawled them in my diary and just copied out what I thought they were. The copy-editor obviously trotted off to an Atlas and checked every one - even tiny villages in Nepal and a river in the mountains of New Zealand!

    But I think you should see your copy editor as a friend - not someone who is going to mark you out of ten like a teacher, but someone who can help with the bits that you find really hard. You're dyslexic - but that shouldn't be an obstacle. Let her help you, rather than feel judged. She is, after all, on your side.

    The very best of luck.

  5. I am filled with admiration for what you’ve done, Liz. Even without having read about the hurdles you’ve overcome that would certainly be the case, but hearing about those is a real eye opener. I can’t wait to read The Cornish House.

    I have terrible trouble with certain homophones but with no good reason behind it. I was past 35 by the time I realised I was typing draw when I really meant drawer and heal when I really meant heel. The discovery of the heal/heel problem also led me to notice that I had people turning on their heels over and over again. My characters must have been pretty dizzy by the time they’d finished, possibly with severely worn soles to their shoes too. I’m on the RNA NWS, and still hoping my work will be copy edited one day. However, I have worked with copy editors in my day job. Though the ones I know are lovely people, they often leap with ferocity on things like full stops in the wrong font and take delight in spotting something they can comment on or tweak. I think the mass of corrections should be read in that context!

  6. Like Clare, I really admire your perseverance and determination not to let your dyslexia prevent you from doing what you love. I know many people who would give up before they'd even started if they were in your shoes.

    I've been copy-edited, but not for fiction. I feel like fiction will be easy sailing in comparison! I'm a co-author on a field guide, and I was a little alarmed and embarrassed by how many mistakes our copy-editor found: spelling errors, inconsistencies in plant names, incorrect usage of terms... none of it that would have affected the identification of an organism, but quite a lot considering we're supposed to know what we're talking about. I was really grateful; she got her own line in our acknowledgments.

  7. I agree with Jo - the copy editor is on your side, even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. I'm sure I've been saved from a lot of embarrassment by someone's eagle eyes. I think it's great that you haven't let the dyslexia stop you - and forget Sr Mary Eleanor, she's obviously one of life's nit-pickers who couldn't spot potential when she had it in right front of her!

  8. Jo- you're right I must look at her as a friend and she's fixed many things in the script... :-)

    Clare - thank you. If you stick to the NWS and keep honing your work you will make...I did.


  9. Seabrooke - I think you're right...non-fiction would be tougher....well done

    Christina - I will remember that she is on my side :-)


  10. Thanks for the encouragement, Liz! Pep talk much needed at the moment...! :-)

  11. It is the job of a good copy editor to humiliate you in every way possible. I was an English teacher for 10 years and there are still mistakes all over my mss. And hugely embarrassing repetitions. But thank God the CE finds them—it would be so much worse if they slipped through!

    One of my CEs was so professional and thorough as to check my spelling in Klingon. :-)

    I agree; you should be so very proud you've overcome your obstacles to become a PUBLISHED WRITER. Perhaps now that B+ has lost its sting?

  12. I do all of these things and I'm not dyslexic. (I seem to be getting worse at everything as I get older!)

    It's absolutely fascinating to see how the process works once something has been accepted.