Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

Copy editing is not a competitive sport

Well, just wrapped the copy edit on Mainspring. Interesting experience, that. I'll give it a day to percolate, in case anything leaps to mind, then it's in a box and back to the warm and loving clutches of Tor Books.

I've never been through this level of copy edit before. deannahoak [ deannahoak.com ] handled the copy edit process. What I got back surprised me.

The package, in order, consisted of:

  • A cover letter from Tor

  • A style sheet cover page from Deanna

  • A two page summary of General Style Rules

  • A list of all named characters

  • A list of all named places

  • A list of terms

  • A contents list, showing the mss page number where each chapter commences

  • A page of copy editor queries

  • The manuscript itself, in pre-production form

Why did some of this stuff surprise me? For example, I had no idea about some of my grammatical tropes, which Deanna summarized neatly. I'm not sure why the lists of characters and places are important to Tor, but they were useful to me in jogging my memory on some issues in Stemwinder. The list of terms was downright odd in some places, including such items as "mosquitoes" and "work boots", which don't strike me as requiring special handling. Again, important to Tor, and I do not question the Wisdom of Publishers. Intriguing to me, mostly. In a few cases I went back and looked them up, to see what I meant by, for example, "monkey-puzzler"

The queries were pretty entertaining. Deanna found two small but significant plot errors, some continuity errors, then questioned various items of usage. I corrected everything she challenged there, save one usage of "bilious".

On the manuscript itself, I stetted some usages and spellings, but accepted the vast majority of her marks. I think there were three unmarked pages out of 353, but in fairness, some of the marks were typographical -- handing of em-dashes and ellipses, for example. I wound up with about 20 queries to myself, which I boiled down to three queries back to Deanna after resolving the rest.

There has been since been extensive tomfoolery with davidlevine, karindira and rosefox over the precise etymology and grammar of "taximeter cabriolet", which turns out to be painful to pluralize, as previous discussed here. Reports are still filtering in.

Likewise I had to figure out if I really wanted to describe a geographical feature as "louche" (yes), the colors of clothing as "bilious" (yes, Sinclair Lewis did it before me, even), and I learned I don't know how to spell "pustulant." We shall gracefully elide over my congenital inability to manage that/which distinctions, and my odd mixing of stanch/staunch, discreet/discrete, and other such English word pairs.

Talk about making me really, really think about why I do things. And sometimes, the only answer is "because I think it's right." Though not in the face of simply being wrong, mind you (as with "pustulent"), more about borderline cases, such as whether I can really use "louche" so very metaphorically. (davidlevine accused me of perpetrating the pathetic fallacy.)

So, fascinating. A sort of time-delayed tennis match with Deanna, which will then be scored by the good folk at Tor. Brought me back to speed with some details I needed for Stemwinder, and brought me very close to Mainspring again in a pleasurable and fascinating way. Not to mention highly educational.

Also, for more on this subject, see Deanna's very useful post on Understanding Your Copyedited Manuscript.
Tags: mainspring, process, stemwinder, writing
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