Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Copyediting in the Editing Process

Whew, finally done reviewing the copyedits on my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (forthcoming 2009, Unbridled Books). I've been lucky to have good copyeditors on all my books. But this isn't a novel-gazing, oops, I mean navel-gazing post.

In my writing workshops I'm often asked about the editing process. I find most people are unaware of the crucial work copyeditors do in preparing a manuscript for publication. Alas, even the best of writers rarely spew forth perfect pearls. After multiple revisions, a manuscript may still need substantial editing. Agents sometimes play the role of editor, helping the writer smooth and snip and whatever it is they need to do to get the work into good enough shape to send out. Then, there's the actual editor, I mean the one who bought the book. (It's also possible to hire a freelance editor. Click here, then scroll down to "Editing," for some recommendations.)

Once the manuscript is as squeaky clean as it can be, and (ideally) both author and editor happy with the result, a specialized editor, the copyeditor, comes in and goes over the manuscript with the finest of super fine-tooth combs. Is it "carte-de-visite" or "carte de visite"? Should the "E" in Champs-Elysee have an accent? (Oops, for sure sure there should be one on that first lower case "e".) Mexican Expedition or Mexican expedition? They often catch commas inside, when they should be outside quotation marks. And so on. No matter how times I've revised a mansucript, I am always astonished by and grateful for the many things the copyedits catches and/ or suggests.

Here's an essay I recommend:

Copyediting. Vital. Do It or Have It Done.
by Diana Hume George

Maybe most apprentice writers don’t think that copyediting and proofreading manuscripts are issues of craft, but if they don’t, they’re wrong. These are the most basic craft matters in the book, in any book. Professional writing must be 100% clean. It must be free of errors in punctuation, usage, mechanics, and spelling. No typos. Period. READ MORE

Then, after the manuscript has been formatted, the proofreader goes over it. Then, once it's printed and bound and in your hands, count on it, you'll find a typo or five, obvious as a pimple on the end of your nose.

In sum, perfection may be unattainable, but one does one's best--- with a lot of expert help. Blessings to the copyeditors. More anon.