Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Copyedits for Violet Dawn

When I first started publishing with Zondervan, I was assigned a great copyeditor. I worked with him through numerous books, then lost him for a while. Boy, did I feel the difference. I’d grown so used to this guy’s hard look at my manuscripts that I didn’t realize all copyeditors weren’t made of the same cloth. Whereas he would give me pages of queries, the other copyeditors would send along a half a page. In the first printing of one of my novels in which I hadn't worked with this guy, I found numerous grammatical mistakes (which were fixed in the second printing). I’d discovered some myself during proofing, but apparently hadn’t caught all of them. They should have been caught in the copyedit process, but they weren’t. If I’d had my old, hard copyeditor, they would have been caught. So I demanded him back.

In the copyedit for Web of Lies, this fave Copyeditor (CE) of mine queried about the stair banister in Annie’s house. In one sentence I referred to it as a “white banister.” CE went back and did a search in each of the three earlier Hidden Faces books to check for consistency. Sure enough, I’d never explained it as a white banister before. I’d never mentioned its color at all. “Are you sure you want to say this now?” he asked. “Readers may have imagined it differently for three books’ running.”

Now that is a detail-oriented copyeditor.

I deleted the word white.

In the copyedits for Violet Dawn, CE had over 170 queries. This is not counting all the “overused words” he listed. I’ll tell you, it’s one thing to note something that stands out in a sentence. It’s another thing to note a certain word’s usage throughout the entire book. But CE apparently keeps a running track. Here are just a few he caught:

Tilt, 17 times. ("People tend to tilt their heads and look up, instead of merely looking.") Flick, 25 times. Whoosh, 5 times. Survey, 19 times. Swivel, 14 times. Grunt, 16 times.

Really? I had no idea my characters did so much grunting.

There were about a dozen other words he found overused. It takes me a long time to fix these. I have to do a search on the computer, then come up with another appropriate word (that I haven’t used too much.)

Here are a few examples of his queries for Violet Dawn (with some blanks so as not to give away any content):

AQ14: Please establish in this scene that the garage is on the north side of the house. Otherwise readers may imagine the scene incorrectly and be forced to reimagine it later.

This is an astute catch. CE had to read further chapters before he could determine what side of the house the garage is on, and then come back to this first mention of the garage and ask me to clarify here.

AQ29: Two paragraphs ago ___ tossed the flashlight into the hatchback. Here she closes the hatchback door and then grabs the flashlight. Please clarify. (Keep in mind the flashlight needs to end up on the passenger seat, where she picks it up in a later scene.)

AQ37: Earlier it was said there was a “curved, descending path through forest down to water’s edge”; here there seems to be no path at all. Please clarify.

AQ47. Second use of word waft in three pages.

AQ50. There was already “something in her voice” two paragraphs ago. Does it make sense for her tone to change again so quickly?

AQ55: Consider deleting the phrase “and the broken lives inside” and allow the metaphor you’ve created to stand on its own.

AQ60: Who is Paige addressing here, the woman or the girl?

AQ68: Doesn’t adrenaline travel through the bloodstream, rather than the nervous system?

AQ78: Bailey is always [doing this same task.] Do you think it would be better to vary her actions?

AQ92: Please make it clear she’s standing outside her car, not sitting in it.

AQ97: Leslie “clicked off” the last time she ended a call in this scene.

AQ110: “Fetal position” is used twice in this book. It’s such a strong image that I recommend using it only once.

AQ123: Vince’s next objection makes sense, but I’m not sure this one does. [Continued explanation of why CE thinks this.]

AQ126: It may be a good idea to note what time it is here, since Nancy is home from work so soon. You might want to mention she only works part-time.

Oops—a real booboo on my part. And a keen detail catch for CE. Nancy does work full time. A good 25 chapters earlier I’d mentioned what time she left for work—and it was the wrong time. Had to move it back so when she gets off work it’s 8 hours later.

AQ130: Should this be “fellow officers” instead of “policemen?”

AQ147: “Lay in his hand” implies that his hand was open, palm up, which isn’t the case here.

AQ153: “Heaved” was used two paragraphs up.

AQ159: Metaphor needs to be reworded. [Explanation of why.]

AQ165: Nancy just huffed toward the end of the last scene. I’d reword one of these.

AQ168: This sentence is trying to say two things at once. [Explanation of what should change.]

AQ171: Third instance of “tsking” in final pages of the book.

See why I love this guy? He catches the small nuances. He’ll note something that doesn’t jive with what I mentioned five chapters or even 25 chapters previously. Sure, I suppose it would be great to zip through an easy copyedit in half an hour rather than take up my whole weekend. But the things a lesser copyeditor would have missed!


C.J. Darlington said...

Wow, this guy is astute -- and a welcomed asset to your writing, I'm sure. It can be very challenging as the author to catch these things, especially overusage of a word. It sounds like a huge blessing to have the Zondervan team on your side.

Tina Helmuth said...

No wonder you demanded him back! I want a copyeditor that thorough when I get published. He made a good call with the banister. I imagined it as a stained wood banister. If I had read white after 3 books, my imagination would have rejected it, and it would have been a distraction. A lot of editors probably wouldn't have mentioned it (let alone caught it) as long as you didn't refer to it as a different color elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

He is detailed! And, Brandilyn, I'm with Tina--I've always pictured the banister as stained wood, too.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Tina and Sally--right on, I agree. I was particularly grateful for that catch. And I knew how much time he had to spend to check out that one item. Most copyeditors would never even have thought about it.

Domino said...

I'll have to start praying for an excellent copy editor now. When I get a contract, he/she will be in place and my little mistakes will be fixed before readers see them.

Thanks, Brandilyn, for showing us a piece of the process.

D. Gudger said...

Another vote for stained wood. I imagine the inside of Annie's house as rustic.
I too, hope I can someday find an eagle-eyed CE b/c I'm discovering in my manuscript I overuse words such as "began to" adnauseum!

Jada's Gigi said...

What a great CE! And a blessing as someone else has mentioned. I myself have read books by very well known publishers filled with gramatical errors and inconsistencies...quite annoying.

Karen Eve said...

All I can say is WOW, this guy is amazing!!!

D. Gudger said...

I'm posting a question on the discussion board about using mutiple POV's in a novel. BC, you did it so well in WOL...
BGs please come over and give me some pointers, advice...

Rachel Hauck said...

Wow, that is fabulous. It's funny how we try to find those things oursevles, but in an 85K word novel, it's close to impossible.

We need those detailed oreinted CE.

Blessings, Brandilyn.


D. Gudger said...

I can't seem to get my question to post. When I do, I'll let you all know.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Darcie, just tested leaving a new topic on the discussion board. It's working.

Cara Putman said...

Amazing. And what a blessing it must be to work with someone with those skills!

Dineen A. Miller said...

Ok, here's my stupid question. Or questions. How many times is a word considered overused? And if you go and start replacing them, how do you know you haven't overused another word?

And sometimes you can't help but repeat a word in a paragraph if your describing an action with an time, like searching through multiple drawers in a desk.

Sorry if I'm overanalyzing but my brain kicks into forward gear regarding things like this. It's what kept me alive in advertising and graphic design. LOL!

Camy Tang said...

WOW, that's truly amazing. That's so beyond my scope of abilities. It's like watching Superman in action.

I echo Dineen's question. I usually try to only use a word once every 100 pages, and if I remember using it in the past 200 pages, I'll still take it out. Is that too extreme? There are only so many words for walking, or crying, or singing, or whatever.


Sabrina L. Fox said...

Wow! He's awesome. I remember reading a book that was great and by a well known author. I was so surprised when one of the main characters changed names a quarter way through the book. I couldn't believe someone didn't catch that.

For some reason seeing that your books don't come out in perfect condition gives me hope for mine! Thanks, Brandilyn!