Monday, February 13, 2006

Editing--Part 2

After our three-day break (while my three-part interview was posted on Chris Well’s blog), I return today to the subject of editing. If you didn’t read my post last Tuesday about the various stages of edits a book goes through, you might want to do so before reading on.

Here are some comments/questions that came in regarding that post:

Dineen: Ah, so somewhere between Track Edits and Copy Edits, the type gets laid out and you don't get to edit a computer file anymore? That's interesting. I thought it happened later than that. So you wind up with a file different than the finished book, unless you add the changes.

For clarification, the book is laid out after copyediting. Remember, the process of editing is macro edit, track changes, copyediting, proofing. (At least, this is how it works for me at Zondervan.) So while I’m working on copyedits, I’m working on a hard copy still in manuscript form, double-spaced. The copyeditor uses software that allows him to insert numbered cues to his queries. For example, for his first query, he’ll insert: [AQ1]. (AQ = Author Query.) On separate sheets of paper are listed the numbered queries and comments that he wants me to look at. For example: [AQ1]. She was “staring” two paragraphs ago. I recommend rewording one of these.

One important note: The copyeditor points out passages I should look at, but the last call is mine. I can make a change or decide to leave as is.

Second note: At the copyedit stage I don’t read the manuscript in its entirety. I simply can’t—I’m deep into writing another book and must remain on schedule. Besides, I don’t have that copyeditor’s eye for detail—that’s why I’m an author and he’s the copyeditor. I only look at the queries the copyeditor has posed. This is why I rely on him to do his job well and be hard on me.

You are right, Dineen, that since I make the changes directly onto this hard copy, what’s in my computer file is no longer the latest version. I am careful to save a copy of my copyedits so when I receive the proofs, I can check that they all were done as I requested. At the proofing stage, I see the book in layout form for the first time.

Lynette: I wonder if it is easier to edit a book once you're pouring yourself into another one. Is the emotional attachment there, just like when you're going through it the first time?

The emotional attachment isn’t there, which is a good thing. I have fresh eyes for the project once again, which I lose during the day-to-day writing of the book. Easier to edit objectively this way.

Vennessa: ARC's always contain the warning that it is an unproofed edition. Problem is, I've noticed a lot of final editions with the same mistakes in them as in the ARC's.

Yes, unfortunately this can be true. It’s very hard to catch every mistake. Most houses have more than one person proofing. If it’s a typo, the proofers should spot it. But if it’s grammatically wrong, that’s the copyeditor’s purview. If the proofer is reading syllable by syllable and punctuation point by punctuation point, she’s not reading for content. She may well miss the grammar stuff. This is why every person’s job is so important. Each kind of editor is looking for something different, starting with the biggest picture and working down to the smallest period. A macro editor who’s worried about overall story structure and characterization can’t notice every typo. Nor will the copyeditor, although he’s looking for them. Because he, too, is looking at a little bit bigger picture. (You’ll see specifics of this in my next post on the subject.)

This is why, when I spot a mistake in a book, I’m not so quick to blame only the author. The author has to create the entire story from scratch, and I can assure you in that process she’s gonna miss things. The macro editor looks to close gaps in logic, tighten story structure, smooth characterization. The copy editor worries about word choice and consistently of details. The proofer catches typos. If I see a typo in a book, I blame the proofer. If I see a gap in logic, I’m likely to think, “Why didn’t the editor catch that?”

This isn’t coming from defensiveness because I’m an author. It’s coming from my understanding that it takes numerous people to create the end product. I’m very quick to give my editors lots of kudos for making my stories better. Believe me, the final book is much improved from the first draft I turn in, thanks to their expertise. Knowing this about my own books, when I’m reading someone else’s story, I’m likely to hold editors accountable for certain kinds of errors.

Because I know how much a good editor can improve my own books, I am very grateful for hard, thorough editing. I ask for it. Makes me work harder, yes, but I’m going for the best product I can deliver. I can tell you, by Zondervan’s own admission, I have the hardest copyeditor they’ve got. I insist on him. The guy is incredible. In the next post on this subject, I’ll show you what I mean.


Becky said...

Brandilyn, this is really interesting. You're demystifying the process a lot.

It seems that everyone has the title of editor and yet the jobs you describe seem quite specialized at Zondervan. Does your macro editor do copy editing for someone else? Is your copyeditor going to conferences and acquiring other authors? In otherwords, how specialized are the people you work with?

Good interview with Chris, BTW.


Cara Putman said...

Thanks, Brandilyn. As I near the end of my WIP, it's fascinating to learn the different roles the editors play in turning a manuscript into a published book. What a team effort.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I had no idea that the process was this intricate. This is facinating stuff, Brandilynn. Have you ever thought about writing a writers book on the subject, or have you already and I just haven't heard about it?

Dineen A. Miller said...

Thanks for explaining, Brandilyn. The whole process is fascinating, especially the creative side like layout and cover.