Musings after copyedits

Most writers don’t speak of copyedits favorably. I, however, was really looking forward to mine. Mostly because I’ve felt so out of touch with my book. I think I might have been willing to hand-write the whole 427 pages on a parchment scroll just to feel again that it was real and not a figment of my imagination.

I have to say I learned a lot from this process. Basically the process is that an invisible person (the copyeditor) goes through the whole manuscript and makes lots and LOTS of marks all over it.

MOST of what was marked up on my manuscript showed how things should be formatted. Still, I had to look at every single mark and make sure it was correct.

This is where the learning came in. First I had to figure out what all the marks were. These things should come with a legend. I googled “copyeditor’s marks” and got several references, but they still weren’t exactly the same marks Tor used. So it took some guess-work and an e-mail to my editor.

Then there were things I didn’t think should be changed…so I wrote “stet” on them, which means to retain my original copy.

Remember how I said it took me 2 days to finish? Well, it actually took three. I disagreed with some of the changes–mostly things I thought were capitalized because I’d “looked them up” during the writing of the manuscript, but the copyeditor marked them lower case. But it suddenly occurred to me there must be a reason the copyeditor made those changes since there were quite a few of them.

Another page has a note as to what references were used. Like the Chicago Manual of Style, which I don’t own. But, I own the AP Stylebook, so I checked and discovered there are rules for things like whether or not to capitalize breeds of dogs.

If you look this up on the internet EVERY breed of dog is capitalized on every web page. This would be one of those instances where the internet [oops, copyeditor wants “Internet” capitalized!] doesn’t necessarily follow the same rules as the real world.

According to the AP Stylebook (and, consequently the Chicago Book of Style), the name of the dog should be capitalized, or not, based on its entry in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. I don’t own one of those either. Had to check that out on the internet…oops, Internet.

And then I had to change back every instance in which I had capitalized “Rottweiler,” because the dictionary says it is “rottweiler.”

And then I had to change back to lower case the type of the wine I used, because M-W doesn’t want it capitalized either.


So, long about the fourth pass-through of the manuscript, I have finally erased the “stet” marks I’d made that weren’t appropriate, REchanged all the changes I’d made to my manuscript file on the computer, and FINALLY finished.

I should mention that copyeditors do a pretty good job. Mine caught a few obvious mistakes, like where I left a word like “a” or “the” out when it fell at the end of a line, or where I put that Rachel liked to help the less “fortune” instead of “fortunate.” There were a few things she missed, which I, being so involved in looking for details at that point, was able to fix myself.

She’s all pretty now. 

Oh, and I’ll take it as a good sign that I got to about the two-thirds point of the manuscript and had to READ almost all of it from that point on instead of just skimming it checking for marks. I still love it! I was still happy with my story.

Now I just have to hope that, nine months from now, readers will love it, too.