Quality Counts

The manuscript for Once Upon A Project has been handled differently from those for past books. Usually, the manuscript has been edited by both the editor and the copyeditor by the time I get to see it. This time I received my editor's edits first, which were extremely sparse. At that time I went through the entire manuscript and made numerous corrections and improvements. It was refreshing to have taken a three-month break from it and look at it with a fresh outlook. This would, I felt, make the copyeditor's job easier.

The copyedited manuscript was delivered today, and I must say I am impressed. Not with myself, but with the copyeditor. Here I was thinking that I'd corrected all the errors in my text and he or she (in this case a he) would have an easy job of it. Not the case. He found loads of inconsistencies, contradictions, and timeline errors, ten pages worth, with quotes lifted directly from the manuscript to support his concerns. One or two of them can be easily explained (like Chicago's Blizzard of '67 occurring in January, before any of the girls turned 10, which is why they were 9 years old at the time despite a birth year of 1957). Some I outright disagree with (A past event that occurred 23 years before is correctly referred to in narrative, but I feel it's perfectly natural for people to refer to it in dialogue as "20 years" or "more than 20 years," rather than the correct "23 years," which strikes me as too exact to be realistic).

The great majority, however, are legitimate and require attention. For instance, I used the New York term, "D.A.'s office," when in Chicago they call it the "state's attorney's office." (But I did remember to call "soda," (a New York term), "pop" when these Midwesterners spoke!)

What's scarier, on the very first page I found a timeline that had been changed . . . incorrectly. I think we're all going to be confused before this is over.

My take? The publishing industry needs more thorough copyeditors like the gentleman who worked on my manuscript. If there were, the quality of books - which has been discussed on various forums in recent months - would shoot up like rockets. No more stories where decades conveniently vanish or with flimsily explained, implausible plot devices. Yes, it's going to be hard work for me to make these changes, and yes, I'm annoyed at myself for not catching most of these beforehand, but it took a lot of hard work for him to point out that what I said on pages 179, 195, 204, and 65 doesn't add up to the same thing . . . and again on pages 66, 207, 208, 242, 251, 281, 304, 305, 353, 354, and 360 . . . and again on - well, you get the point. Not to mention that damn lay vs. lie (I used it incorrectly on Page 1 and probably throughout the manuscript). It's excruciatingly tedious work. But the bottom line is, it will make for a much better book in the end when it's all cleared up.

And that's my #1 priority.

7 comments:

shelia said...

I love a good copyeditor. A good "keen" outside eye is a treasure.

Blah Blah Blah said...

Oh lord...
I thought abotu writing a book...many many many....ummm, many moons ago... but it sounds like a lot of work. Especialy if it's not really your passion.

Can't wait to see the finished product.

Donna said...

You should send your copyeditor a big box of chocolates or something! They truly are the unsung heroes of the industry. It's good to have someone really give your work the exacting once-over, even if you don't agree with all their notes; at least it's been brought to your attention.

I have read some horribly written books that were in serious need of any kind of editing. I wish more publishers were concerned with quality vs. quantity.

bettye griffin said...

Shelia, you're right. A good copyeditor is priceless.

Blah Blah Blah, Writing a book is easy. It's the polishing process that seems endless and never finished! Thanks for anticipating the book. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Donna, I'm ahead of you. First thing this morning I e-mailed my editor and asked her to convey my appreciation to the gentleman who copyedited my manuscript for his thoroughness and keen eye. I also said I hoped that he would work on future manuscripts. He's the best I've seen in 14 books. I never would have caught the stuff he did, even with another complete read-through.

You're right about books being published with more plot holes than a sponge. They never would have gotten past this dude, that's for sure.

Maybe this is a sign of things to come . . . .?

Thanks for posting, all!

Patricia W. said...

You know how I feel about "lay vs. lie"! I was so paranoid, I stripped the verb out of my contest entry completely! Still not sure...

bettye griffin said...

I'll be curious to see how many other times my use of these words has been corrected in the manuscript. I've conquered the that vs. which issue, and I'm sure I can memorize this use as well. Maybe before I'm 60 . . . .?

Gwyneth Bolton said...

So true. Two of my presses didn't let me see books after the copy editing... And they aren't all as good as the young man you worked with...

Gwyneth