A Spark of Heavenly Fire Update — Copy-Editing Hell

I found additional mistakes to the proof copy of A Spark of Heavenly Fire, so it will be a couple of more weeks before it’s released. I’ve been afraid that I’m going to be stuck in copy-editing hell for the rest of my life, but I’ve decided that perfection at this point really is impossible. I had the idea that single-handedly I needed to eradicate the POD publishers reputation for releasing less than stellar books, but there is a limit to what one (untrained) person can do. I am learning how to copyedit, though, and I do know one thing: however much copy-editors get paid, it is not enough.

The thing with mistakes is that they proliferate when you are not looking. You correct one, and in the process, create another. When I finished my novel, the manuscript was almost perfect — I’d read the thing out loud, so I would be sure to look at every single word, every single punctuation mark. Then . . . I did one final polish, took out all the extra justs and onlys, the particularlys and practicallys, the barelys and hardlys, the began tos, and the wases. The problem is, other words got deleted along the way (don’t ask me how, because I don’t know) and I didn’t catch them. Yikes.

And then there are the choices to be made. Is it ill-prepared or ill prepared? I originally had ill-prepared, but MSword said that was wrong, so I deleted the hyphen. And now I want it back for the simple reason that the hyphen is how it is commonly used. And what about brand new? My dictionary says it’s brand-new, but common usage has it as brand new. So which do I use? I think I’ll leave out the hyphen; that way there will be one less change to make.

Some of the changes  that need to be made entail rewriting a sentence. In the proof copy, smelled is on two lines: smell-ed. Smelled can’t be hyphenated, so now I have to decide how to rewrite the sentence so smelled can fit on one line. I had “He fell silent for a moment, savoring the feel of her tee shirt- and jeans-clad body next to his. She smelled clean and fresh, like cucumber, or melon, or pear.” So how do I change the sentence, so that smelled can fit on one line? “savoring the fell of her thinly clad body”? savoring the feel of her tee shirt-clad body”? Neither of those do it for me. But now, writing this, I see what I can change. I can take out “for a moment”. (Yes, I know that the period belongs inside the quotation marks, but this is proofing, and perhaps whoever is making the changes to the print copy will think the period needs to be taken out.) See what I mean? Copy-editors are not paid enough.

Well, now it’s put up and shut up time. Make the important changes, and try not to sweat the small stuff. I can guarantee, though, that whoever came up with that particular phrase is not a copy-editor. With copy-editing, it’s all about the small stuff.

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5 Responses to “A Spark of Heavenly Fire Update — Copy-Editing Hell”

  1. Kenna Says:

    Copy-editing hell will hopefully be short-lived (should those be hyphenated or not?). Soon you’ll have that lovely book in your hands, and it will all seem like a bad dream!

    Hang in there!!

  2. Ken Coffman Says:

    I too struggle with the editing process and have great sympathy for the author that says: “Forget the spelling errors, typos, formatting problems and grammatical errors, they have nothing to do with my story. What about my story?” The problem is, with too may errors, the reader is jolted out of the story and the reading experience is derailed.
    We share the mission to improve the quality of our prose to help remove the stigma of the small POD press. I’ve decided the only reasonable goals are to make this year’s work as good as we can and work hard so next year’s work is better. As I said in one of my songs…
    Perfection? That’s a hell of a goal.

  3. Carole Says:

    I wrote my first book, Thoughts before Breakfast and used Trafford Press to publish it. http://www.trafford.com/07-2161
    Like you I found editing it a real nightmare. Being dyslexic made it even more difficult. Fortunately my friend Beryl who is a retired teacher came to my rescue and edited my manuscript four times. After the forth time I couldn’t bear to read it again and send my manuscript to Trafford. After a few weeks they sent me a E-proof. I quickly skimped over it and only found a few errors which I corrected. When the next E-proof came I just checked to see if they had corrected the previous errors, which they had so I signed the go ahead form. When my proof copy of my book arrived I was thrilled, it looked great and I didn’t have the patience to read every word again so I signed the final form to start printing my book. The day my box of books arrived was brilliant until my husband, Peter, who reads slowly and carefully read it and started to find a few silly errors that I missed in my hurry and excitement to get it printed. One really big dyslexic error was mixing the letters up in silver and calling it sliver cutlery, not once but twice. I now feel cross with myself for not taking the time to read the proofs more carefully and cross with Peter for waiting until it was in book form before he would read it. I know I could pay to get the errors put right but I doubt if it will be a best seller and I’m not sure the expense will be worth it.
    Good luck with your book

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I know once my book is printed I will find errors, but it seems there has to be a time to just let it go. I’m thinking that if we do correct those last few errors, more will show up later, so maybe it’s better to try to forget them. Even the most expensive hard backs have errors in them.

  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    I was just informed that it’s ill prepared and brand-new. See what I mean? Hell.

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