by Leigh Perry / Toni L.P. Kelner
I've spent the past couple of days reviewing the copy edits on The Skeleton Makes a Friend, which will be released in November of this year. And, as always, my reactions were somewhat mixed. Among the most common screams from my office were the following:
- AAAAA! I can't believe I missed that.
- AAAAA! No, that is not a mistake. Put it back the way I wrote it!
- Why did they put a comma there? I don't need a comma there.
- Okay, I suppose it's a little more clear to have that comma. If they really want it, I'll let it pass.
- Why did they take that comma out? I need that comma.
- Okay, I suppose it's a little smoother to not have that comma. If they really don't want it, I'll let it pass.
- Oh my gosh, I can't believe I wrote that awful sentence.
- Oh my gosh, I can't believe they meddled with my brilliant sentence.
I think it's safe to say that most writers have a love-hate relationship with their copy editors.
On one hand, it's a huge comfort to know that another set of eyes will be taking a look at my work before it's released onto the public. Honestly it's really difficult to proofread one's own work. I know darned well there are typos in this blog post, and I could read it a dozen times and still see what I meant to write instead of what I actually wrote. Of course, my editor has read over the manuscript, too, but it's the copy editor who is most likely to noticed the missed words, the then that should have been them, the time I said Jen was in the scene when it was actually Judy. (Or did I say Judy, when it was supposed to be Jen? AAAAA!) I've had copy editors so good that they remembered what color a character's hair should be from when it was mentioned in an earlier book in the series. One even recognized that a name I'd inserted as a treat for a friend of mine was the name of a real person, and asked if I realized that. These people know their details!
On the other hand, there are some issues of grammar and punctuation that are open to interpretation, and even creative license. Take commas, for instance. I've never met two authors who sprinkle in commas the same way. Even without arguing over the Oxford comma, there are plenty of places where a comma is optional, and either using one or omitting it would be perfectly correct. My most recent copy editor, though very good for the most part, took out an inordinate number of my commas, and then inserted them elsewhere. I've also had copy editors "correct" my Southern idioms and one I refer to as the Semi-Colon Queen because she never saw a sentence she didn't think she could improve with a firm use of a semi-colon.
Still, I've had far more positive experiences with copy editors than negative ones, and I would never want a book to go to press without having a set of their eagle eyes checking everything out. Just as long as I have the option to veto what they've done with my commas!