Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
- I write the book
- I rewrite the book
- I repeat that second step 15 – 20 times
- I send the manuscript to my editor (Nancy) in New York
- She reads it, mulls it over, and sends it back with a cover letter saying what she loves about it, and suggesting ways to make it even better. The manuscript itself is marked up in pencil, with nice comments and smiley faces balancing out the edits and suggestions.
- I give the letter and margin notes a while to sink in, because after having rewritten the story so many times, the initial response is to groan and say, But I like it just the way it is! This is also the stage during which my house gets really clean—I’m thinking, brooding, avoiding.
- I finally tackle the rewrite and discover that it’s not so bad; that Nancy (as always) has come up with some good suggestions and that a little extra work makes the book tighter and better. I end this stage happy and grateful for her input.
- I send the revised manuscript back to Nancy and she reads it, approves it, and hands it over to a copy editor.
- The copy editor brews herself a giant pot of tea, takes out her red pencil and her reference books, and proceeds to bloody my manuscript with punctuation, grammar, and style corrections. And questions. Somehow there are always lots of questions.
- The copy editor gives the manuscript back to Nancy, who then goes over the little red marks and either agrees, adds a “?” for me, or crosses out the copy editor’s “correction”. (She does this in a different color, so I know who’s “talking”.)
- Nancy then sends the manuscript to me, and (after I groan over all the markings) I brew myself a gigantic pot of tea, find a color pencil different from the ones already used, and begin going through the manuscript AGAIN.
So that’s where I am right now. And Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher wasn’t so bad because Nancy saw the copy edited version before her vacation and ran interference with the copy editor markings before sending it to me. This was not the case with The Running Dream. I just received the raw copy edited version. This is the third manuscript that this has happened with, and the difference to me is huge. For one thing, commas drive me crazy. And there are differing schools of comma placement. You may get a copy editor who is a firm believer in Method A for one book, and one who is a firm believer in Method B of another book. Sometimes they both look at the same book. It’s like comma wars! Commas getting put in, commas getting crossed out…put in commas being removed…it drives me batty! I use commas to indicate a pause in speech (or, you know, separation of clauses, etc.), but I’m no comma expert and consequently I can spend half an hour agonizing over one page worth of small punctuation changes. Who am I to question the Comma Queen? Well…the author? But I don’t want to be pig headed. And since I know I’m not a comma expert, I ask myself, Why not just take the word of someone who is? Because sometimes what’s correct is just wrong for the style of the book or the voice of the character. Anyway, when Nancy hasn’t gone through the marks before I get it, there’s no buffer. There’s no “kid speak” or “style” or just X-out from Nancy to let me know that I don’t have to worry about that particular correction. And consequently I question everything I want to cross out or revert. Or I feel I have to justify or explain my reasoning in the margins. It’s not just commas or punctuation, either. Copy editors also often do a little fact checking, and if they call some part of your story into question, you have to double-check your facts and that means revisiting the things you may have been up to speed on a year ago when you wrote the book, but aren’t so sure about now. It’s all tedious and time-consuming, and I really have to battle against feeling annoyed. I have to remind myself that the copy editor is trying to help make the book better; that she’s an expert in an area that I’m not. So I weigh each mark she makes carefully and try to see through the eyes of someone who hasn't read the book 20 times. Sometimes I'm surprised to realize what isn't on the page that should be. And then, inevitably, she’ll find some totally embarrassing mistake I’ve made and I’ll be so grateful for her attention to detail. I always write a gigantic THANK YOU in the margin and concede that slogging through the Red Sea of Commas was worth it. Difficult, but worth it.