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[process] My copy editor comments in response - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-05-22 03:25
Subject: [process] My copy editor comments in response
Security: Public
Tags:books, kalimpura, process, publishing, sunspin, writing
Kalimpura's copy editor and I have had a very nice email exchange arising in response to my recent post about copy edits and manuals of style. [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] With their kind permission, I am reprinting excerpts from that email exchange here, as I found it pretty interesting.

On eccentric spelling issues:
I thought I'd share a little bit about how British/Canadian spellings can come across to a copy editor.

Basically, the first time I see words like "storey" and "colour," I'm on alert wondering if the author just went English for a second or what else might be going on. It gets harder again, when later "flavor" and "harbor" might go by as is. (And I'm not even sure why, or if the author has a strong reason why "colour" and "neighbor" might inhabit the same sentence.) Textually, it can read like the narrative has mysteriously decided to affect a brief accent that is just as quickly dropped again. At this point, I am noting what the prevailing style is and if there perhaps might be some narrative logic to a quick switch in voice/dialect/geography—yet only for certain words.

I don't greatly prefer American over British spelling, and have had no problem when enough of the latter crops up, then going back and reconciling grey, kerb, spiralling, harbour, draught, neighbour, til, and so forth--all in. Before the tipover point, I'm writing down hundreds of words and instances in my notes, work that's often needless when it turns out the author just quickly tried out a dialect and backed off from it. Those hours never feel wasted, just part of the job.

I am thinking that where many, many readers (and editors) see/hear an inconsistent regionalism in what an author spells, the author might just be trying to encode a quick flavor of nostalgia, sprinkled where they most prefer it with a spelling device. That's the point at which the author's stet is so stylistically priceless.

In my case, when I do this, I am trying to convey a flavor with certain spellings. So, "storey", "despatch" and "draught", for example. It looks right for what I'm wanting to do in the book. I'm not deliberately being Anglophilic or otherwise, just working within a certain context that feels right to me.

They go on to say:
I'm glad you're keen on preserving your intentions when they might be invisible to someone farther along in the process. With 900 books behind me, I've witnessed that most often textual quirk is not the result of care or deliberation, but accident and inattention, and now and then forgotten indecision. You do your best as a CE to come across as an aide-de-camp rather than an adversary, giving the author more YES/NO choices than they might first have had in mind. Maybe 1 percent of authors are as good about process and design as you are (no lie), which makes the mighty stet such a blessing for everyone involved in the making of the best book possible.

I appreciated the kind words, but that's also an important point. The copy editor has to distinguish between auctorial intention and textual errors, generally with very little context to work from. In my response to them, I mentioned that I had developed a stylesheet for the Sunspin books, to address certain items of usage and so forth. My copy editor replied:
A style sheet specific to each title could be helpful for you and for the other hands and eyes involved in the next books, sure.

Noting points of usage and style is valuable, as is delineating the reason and pattern behind, say, the narrative "speaking" in "storey" and "draught" but not "dialled" and "programme," for example. Sharing your overarching scheme helps immensely and aids the CE with the gist of your spelling gimmicks and similar storytelling choices.

On the other hand, if it's just as much of a time sink to create a comprehensive style sheet as it is to click "reject change" later on, then I'd say put the time in at whatever point in the process you can best spare it: front or back.

I'm increasingly coming to believe that an author-generated stylesheet can be critical. Of course, I only know what a stylesheet is from experience with prior copy edits. I don't believe I'm free to share those here, as they are Tor's work product, but at the bottom of this post, I'll append part of my Sunspin style sheet as an example, since at this point that's still my own work product.

A bit later, I received a third email from my copy editor, adding another interesting comment.
[S]omething else that might be valuable if you're continuing to write in genres that use sometimes exalted, formal, studious, or ceremonial speech between characters is to let the CE know that despite the tone, you're purposely leaving out the "whom" or similar constructions in either the dialogue or running text. A careful CE is generally trying to extrapolate and fill in from a mosaic of other hints--if you have an issue that contrasts rather than coheres, that's the sort of thing to flag.

I want to thank my copy editor for their frankness, and their willingness to be quoted herein. And also for the terrific copy edit.

Sunspin stylesheet notes follow. In addition to these explications of usage, I have lists of people and place names, as well as a list of starship names. I still need to create a list of nonstandard words in deliberate use.
Titles or ranks are capitalized when they are part of names or used in direct address in lieu of a name. They are uncapitalized when being referenced without the name or otherwise in indirect use. These include father, father superior, sergeant, lieutenant, lieutenant-commander, commander, captain, admiral, baron, count, earl, duke, prince and princess. The only exceptions are Before, Library, Interlocutrix, Patriarch and Imperator, which are always capitalized, even in their adjectival forms. ("Before" does not have an adjectival form.)

The prefix "go" when applied to an officer's rank (i.e., Go-Captain Alvarez) is specific to the Navisparliamentary service, and is reserved for those officers trained and certified for starship command. Note that some starship captains do not have a "go" prefix. These are either captains from outside the Navisparliamentary service (i.e., Captain Kinman), or more rarely, Navisparliamentary officers in a command role without the formal certification. The "go" prefix may be omitted in casual address, much as lieutenant colonels are often referred to simply as "colonel".

The suffix "praetor" when applied to an officer's rank (i.e., Lieutenant-Praetor Shinka) is specific to the Imperatorial Guards (also sometimes referred to as the Household Guards -- the two terms are interchangeable). "Praetor" is reserved for those officers permitted to carry weapons in the Imperator's presence, or to command troops carrying weapons in the Imperator's presence. The "praetor" prefix may be omitted in casual address, much as lieutenant colonels are often referred to simply as "colonel".

Starships are always formally referred to with their pair count, so "Third Rectification {58 pairs}" in narrative or written references, but "Third Rectification, fifty-eight pairs" in dialog. This formal reference should be used the first time a starship's name is introduced in narrative or dialog, but can be omitted in immediately subsequent uses. If the starship is not referred to for a while, the reintroduction of the name should again be with the formal reference on initial occurrence.

Note that both Third Rectification and Joyous Strength have varying pair counts within the manuscript of Calamity of So Long a Life. This is because of the new pair master built at NSN.411-e. AA. Characters unaware of the return of the two starships will refer to them by their previous pair counts, Third Rectification {58 pairs} and Joyous Strength {21 pairs}. Characters who have become aware of their returns will refer to them as Third Rectification {59 pairs} and Joyous Strength {22 pairs}. This creates an apparent inconsistency in the text, as for much of the book, not everyone is aware of their return, so both references are being used. However, any given character will be consistent according to their knowledge of the situation.

Polite address for persons without title or rank is "Ser" or "Sera". This corresponds to "Sir" or "Ma'am", and also to "Mr." or "Mrs./Ms./Miss". However, in a very few cases the older, archaic forms of address are used, exclusively by Befores, and usually under stress or in a moment of thoughtlessness. Likewise, a common expletive is “hells”, except for the Befores who will often use the older, singular form. (I.e., “what the hells?” vs “what the hell?”)

This culture does not make a strong distinction between the name of a star and the name of the primary inhabited planet in any given solar system. Hence "Salton" for both the star and the planet. Often the star will have a different name or survey number for technical or scientific use, but in Calamity of So Long a Life this rarely occurs explicitly in the text.

In starship operations, generally speaking a "cruise" is a voyage between destinations which or may not include multiple distinct transits between pair masters. A "transit" is more specifically the process of traveling between any two pair masters. This language is not used with precision, and so there may be occasional inconsistencies depending on the speaker, dialect or stylistic concerns of the text.

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russ: lyles constant
User: goulo
Date: 2012-05-22 12:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lyles constant
Interesting stuff.

I like the copy editor's explanation. I too get bugged by such inconsistencies like mixing US and British style spellings (e.g. "colour" but "neighbor") in the same document, and I get distracted as a reader wondering if it's a mistake, or if the author is aware of the inconsistency and what the rationale for it is (and often feeling like I'm not convinced by whatever the rationale is... :)
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User: saveswhat
Date: 2012-05-22 14:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Until now, I hadn't noticed that "grey" is the British spelling of "gray". I think I use some British spellings simply because I've read many British books and some British spellings feel familiar.
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When life gives you lemmings...: Coinslot
User: danjite
Date: 2012-05-22 14:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Taximeters cabriolet!
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User: gabrielle_h
Date: 2012-05-22 15:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Your copyeditor is a gem. They've managed to express a complex process much more clearly and simply than I've ever been able to. (Not surprising, when they've got many more books behind them!)

Stylesheets are also gems. We editors do play the forensics game with spellings and names and concepts as we go along, and query whether isolated quirks are deliberate or accidental, so knowing ahead of time and not having to question really streamlines the process.

My stylesheets always contain all names (people, places, things) and unique terms. Pyr taught me to include the page number of first appearance of each name or term, and a few other formatting tricks that instantly boosted the value of the stylesheet immensely.

I know of a few publishers which require authors to turn in stylesheets with their manuscripts. I wish more did. It's an excellent habit to form, it's helpful for your CE, and it's a great reference for author AND copyeditor when it's time for the sequels.
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curious Eve
User: curiouseve
Date: 2012-05-23 01:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Very interesting. Enjoyed this immensely.
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