A Spark of Heavenly Fire Update — Copy-Editing Hell

I found additional mistakes to the proof copy of A Spark of Heavenly Fire, so it will be a couple of more weeks before it’s released. I’ve been afraid that I’m going to be stuck in copy-editing hell for the rest of my life, but I’ve decided that perfection at this point really is impossible. I had the idea that single-handedly I needed to eradicate the POD publishers reputation for releasing less than stellar books, but there is a limit to what one (untrained) person can do. I am learning how to copyedit, though, and I do know one thing: however much copy-editors get paid, it is not enough.

The thing with mistakes is that they proliferate when you are not looking. You correct one, and in the process, create another. When I finished my novel, the manuscript was almost perfect — I’d read the thing out loud, so I would be sure to look at every single word, every single punctuation mark. Then . . . I did one final polish, took out all the extra justs and onlys, the particularlys and practicallys, the barelys and hardlys, the began tos, and the wases. The problem is, other words got deleted along the way (don’t ask me how, because I don’t know) and I didn’t catch them. Yikes.

And then there are the choices to be made. Is it ill-prepared or ill prepared? I originally had ill-prepared, but MSword said that was wrong, so I deleted the hyphen. And now I want it back for the simple reason that the hyphen is how it is commonly used. And what about brand new? My dictionary says it’s brand-new, but common usage has it as brand new. So which do I use? I think I’ll leave out the hyphen; that way there will be one less change to make.

Some of the changes  that need to be made entail rewriting a sentence. In the proof copy, smelled is on two lines: smell-ed. Smelled can’t be hyphenated, so now I have to decide how to rewrite the sentence so smelled can fit on one line. I had “He fell silent for a moment, savoring the feel of her tee shirt- and jeans-clad body next to his. She smelled clean and fresh, like cucumber, or melon, or pear.” So how do I change the sentence, so that smelled can fit on one line? “savoring the fell of her thinly clad body”? savoring the feel of her tee shirt-clad body”? Neither of those do it for me. But now, writing this, I see what I can change. I can take out “for a moment”. (Yes, I know that the period belongs inside the quotation marks, but this is proofing, and perhaps whoever is making the changes to the print copy will think the period needs to be taken out.) See what I mean? Copy-editors are not paid enough.

Well, now it’s put up and shut up time. Make the important changes, and try not to sweat the small stuff. I can guarantee, though, that whoever came up with that particular phrase is not a copy-editor. With copy-editing, it’s all about the small stuff.

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