I remember receiving a letter somewhere in the early stages of the Sammy Keyes series where Nancy (my editor) sent a cover letter with a marked-up manuscript that mentioned somewhere in it that, yes, she was asking me to work on three Sammys at once.
It's been a long time since that first time, but I find myself, once again, needing to work on three Sammys at once.
There's the second pass galleys of Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack, the rewrite of Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City, and the new one--Sammy 17 for a lack of a better name.
Of course I can't physically work on all three at once. I have to tackle them one at a time. So, going by deadline, I've been up to my eyebrows in reviewing Justice Jack. In theory it should be easy because I could jump from one copy editor comment to the next and simply address the specific notes without reading the entire story.
I do feel sorry for my copy editors. I think manuscripts are mostly "farmed out" to freelance copy editors, so it's not like there are in-house comma queens or grammar gurus waiting to review your work. And I imagine that freelance copy editors do work for all the publishers, so there are good odds against getting the same one twice.
Which is too bad because I drive each and every one of them crazy.
Well, there was the one who read Runaway and made wonderful comments in the margins, but that's unheard of.
(Except that you just heard of it. Right.)
Anyway, mostly copy editors pay attention to the nitty-gritty details of punctuation, style, consistency, and grammar. Well, they try to reign in the grammar, but dangling prepositions abound regardless. They also sometimes make comments about dogs that make you realize they have cats.
But never mind about that.
By and large they stick to the facts, ma'am, and the fact is that Sammy Keyes books break a really big rule of writing--they flex back and forth between present and past tense, sometimes within the same paragraph.
It drives copy editors NUTS.
Switching tense like that is just WRONG.
But you know what? Speech is fluid. When people (especially kids) talk, they move from past to present all the time. So if I'm going to capture the voice of a 13 year old, I have to break the rules. At least I choose to break the rules to portray an authentic voice. Sammy Keyes is, after all, a rule breaker.
So fifteen books into the series and I am, once again, feeling very sorry for yet another copy editor who is trying to edit by the rules. Past or present tense? Which is it? What am I supposed to do with this? You can't switch like this! It's against the rules!!!
Poor dears. I know they're pained by the struggle to figure out how to professionally deal with this doggone rule breaker who must not know even the basics of writing.
Nancy sees the manuscripts first, and winds up crossing out all of the copy editor's tense notations (which are often done in red). And then I get the bloodied manuscript with a note from Nancy saying something like, Not as bad as it looks! The CE notated tense.
So I'm rereading the whole of Justice Jack and, tense notations aside, it's a good thing I didn't just jump from mark up to mark up because I found (what I consider to be) a pretty big mistake (which I can't believe nobody else caught!) -- I had previously edited out something on one page, but the reference to what was now gone still existed two pages later.
So even though it was "optional" for me to review the "2nd pass galleys" (I'm sure Nancy just didn't want me to see another 300 pages of bloodied verbs) I'm glad I'm going over it, and going over the whole thing. Again!
Glamorous life, huh?
Next week I'll tell you about Sin City, and then #17. And one of these weeks I am going to do a Justice Jack ARC giveaway, so I hope you'll check back for that. Meanwhile, break some rules. Or at least a tense situation!
(Sorry, that was bad.)
Have a good week!