Thursday, May 6, 2010

Putting on my copy editor hat

I got home from work today and there it sat. The white envelope from the Fed Ex guy. Inside: the page proofs for DRIVEN TO INK.

These pages are typeset and look the way they'll look when they're actually in the book. It includes all the reviews for my other books, my dedication and acknowledgments, and even the teaser for the next book.

This is the last chance I get to look at the pages before I see the real book. It's my last chance to make any changes necessary, find the typos and any other errors. The letter that accompanies these pages, however, scares the daylights out of me. "This is not the time to make major changes," I paraphrase. And then it tells me how much money it would cost to make said major changes.

The major changes are usually made during the copy editing phase of the book. I get the manuscript emailed to me with the markup from the copy editor. I can change anything at that point, my own changes and even deciding whether I want to keep the copy editor's changes. Most of the time the copy editor is on target, but sometimes he or she makes a change that goes opposite the character's voice, so I type in STET, which means, keep it the way I had it.

I did have a problem with page proofs for PRETTY IN INK. While proofing them, I realized that I have a love affair with the word "just." I have no idea why, but it was peppered everywhere throughout the book, so much so that it was clearly noticeable. So I took most of them out. Because of that, I was more than aware of my overuse of the word "just" in DRIVEN TO INK and managed to take them out during the copy editing phase.

I've been through four chapters so far and have yet to find a typo or an extra space or line or even an overused word. It worries me a little. It makes me realize that I will be going through this at least twice before I have to get it back to my editor in two weeks because it can't be that clean. It just can't be. (See, there's that word again.) I spent almost 20 years as a copy editor and I know I can find something wrong. Copy editors are by nature anal. Writers are not. At this stage, I put on my copy editor hat and I cease to be a writer.

When you read something, do you immediately zone in on that typo or an overused word? Are you a secret copy editor?

10 comments:

oyejohn52 said...

Thanks for this great behind-the-scenes look at copy editing, Karen. When I read, I feel that typos literally jump off the page at me, especially when the book is an ARC (though I don't know if I'm aware of overused words as much, unless they're incredibly obvious). Oh, and I'd be willing to bet that your writing is that clean. :)

David Terrenoire said...

Only after I write. Then, if I concentrate, I can channel my inner editor.

L.J. Sellers said...

I am a copy editor, but proofing my own galleys is difficult. Fortunately, I have many editor friends, so I just gave each of them a chunk of pages to proofread, and they did a better job than I would have. In exchange they get a copy of the novel when it comes out in August. I'm determined to turn in a cleaner manuscript next time.

You're really cranking this new series out!

Natasha Fondren said...

"Immediately zone in?" No, LOL. I LOVE copy editing, but I first have to put on a special hat and take several caffeine pills to get the focus needed.

Good luck!

Karen Olson said...

John, the reason you see so many typos in ARCs is that those are the first pass pages, which are the ones I'm working on right now and before they're proofed. If you had seen an ARC for Pretty in Ink, you would've seen all those "justs"!!

David, I'm the same way.

LJ, I've thought about parsing out my page proofs, too, but it seems too much of an imposition on friends who have their own stuff to worry about. So I slog through.

Natasha, great to find another person who loves copy editing!

Anonymous said...

Sad to admit, but I've been known to carry a red pen in my purse. Although I can usually resist using it, there have been times I can't control myself and mark up the offending text. (The one we often laugh about is when I corrected "Nemu" when they meant "Menu." I can still see the manager's confused face!)

Dru said...

I don't look for errors but I do seem to find them.

Lou said...

You're not anal, Karen, you are just being very thorough. The fact that you haven't found anything "out of place" means you have learned and grown as an author. A definite pat on the back for that. Good luck!

Patty said...

It's amazing how different your novel looks in page proof form than on the manuscript you shoot out of your printer. Mistakes seem to jump out at you. The Word Echo is my nemesis and it's never more clear than when I get those pages from my editor. Yay for the new book, Karen.

chestnut-red said...

Typos tend to jump out at me. Sometimes if it's on a webpage, I'll write the tech people responsible for the page's upkeep. (Yeah, I'm that anal about it.) One time I found a major typo on Martha Stewart's website, and it was a bear to find who to contact about it. Finally I ended up emailing the Invester Relations department. Usually someone writes to thank me (even if they're rolling their eyes behind the anonymity of the computer screen) but not one word from the Martha Stewart crew. The typo was corrected within 15 minutes of my sent email, though.

Karen, my father-in-law recently finished SACRED COWS, and you've got a new fan. He has to read large print books, so I was curious if and when the Tattoo Shop Mysteries will be in large print.

- Becky Hutchison