If you cut me, do I not bleed (red ink)?

And lo, the copyedit of SOUL OF FIRE is done, and all the flags have been deflagged, the queries answered, and the irritations bit down and buried – because the CE will not see your responses, so although snarking in return may feel good, it’s also pointless.  Bite ’em down and move on.

Or, y’know, let ’em fly into a more appreciative space.  Like a fellow writer’s in-box or chat room.

the meerkat at work

Because there is, when going through copyedits, an instinct to pull out the STET macro and go to town.  “Leave my story alone!”  No matter how skillful the CE, and how perfectly right they may be – this is our baby and the CE is telling us we done did it wrong.

(an editor gets a milder version of this reaction, mainly because the editor has, ideally, already won tolerance by dint of long partnership, and the fact that they’re paying you money for your words. The copyeditor is a stranger coming in and telling you that even with three passes and an editorial revision, you still got it wrong.)

And, alas, not all copyeditors are good.  Some, in fact, are a bit not good. If you scratch any writer’s skin, be it thick or thin, you will find copyeditor horror stories. Some of them, admittedly, more horrific/horrifying than others (changing actual chunks of the manuscript, including the rewrite of  “after dinner drinks” to “post-prandial brandies,” happened to a writer I know. Two decades later, that story still makes us cringe). And these days, we’re given even less time to go over a copyedit than previous – when I started, there was a two-week expectation.  Now we’re being asked to turn them around in seven days (sometimes less). So you’re being traumatized and told to do it at a forced march.

So yeah.  There’s stress, and defensive posturing, and all that.

Now, let me say that the copyeditor for HEART OF BRIAR and SOUL OF FIRE has been wonderful (so much so that I specifically requested she do the second book).  She’s saved my bacon on a number of occasions, from grammatical pickiness to reminding me that I’d changed the timing on a scene so no, there wouldn’t be sunlight coming through the window (ooops).  And I am aware that for copyeditors, literal-mindedness and pedantry are tools of the trade, not drawbacks.

So mostly I mutter to myself (or anyone in the war room with me), choose the hills I’m willing to die on, and let the Wookie win, 80% of the time.

But there are times when I have to stop an think “no, wait, what?  

Today’s straw was a query of “so does X say this?  I thought it was A or B, so this needs a tag”  when the very NEXT line after the sentence was “they both turned to look at X, surprised that he’d finally spoken….”

Yeah, no, I’m sorry.  STET.

But I let her have her way with my commas.


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