Things I’ve Learned From My Copyeditor (or why I’m too stupid to write without one)

I finished First Pass Pages for THE PLEDGE yesterday and they’re off to my editor in that faraway, magical land of New York City, the place where enchanted publishing things happen. It’s also the place where copyeditors dwell. Copyeditors, as I see it, are these mystical creatures who live solely to remind authors that they are smarter, better educated, and generally have a greater grasp of the English language than we do. Or maybe it’s not all authors…maybe it’s just me. Either way, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself from my copyeditors:

1) I’m, a, comma, whore. Apparently, I throw them around like confetti. Or glitter. The title of my next book: WHY COMMAS RULE THE WORLD, AND STUFF.

2) When I’m writing, I don’t stop to look up the meaning of those pesky words I don't know. Dictionary-schmictionary! If it sounds right, I’ll just use it and forge ahead. The result: A list of words that seem like they should fit, but don’t—in fact—mean what I thought they did.

Words I’ve recently misused (and the accompanying notes from my copyeditor):

“Graphitize” means convert to graphite. Seems unlikely that this is what you meant here. Could you have wanted “graffitied” instead? (Note: Yes. Yes, I did.)

“Stringent” means constricted, rigorous, strict, severe (like stringent rules). What’s a better word you can use to describe the burn of liquor? (Note: I think I meant “astringent”, but ultimately used neither. Although I love the patronizing tone, don’t you?)

“Envoy” is an individual. Changed to “group of soldiers.” (Note: Thanks, copyeditor!)

Seriously, I should start a list. Or not. Maybe it would be too embarrassing to know how long it really is.

3) Continuity may not be my strong suit. Sometimes things just…happen, like my characters will just magically change positions, moving from one place to another with no explanation. It’s like teleportation or something. But the copyeditor calls me on these strange, inexplicable inconsistencies with notes like: How can it be snowing in the middle of July?

Okay, so THAT never actually happened, but you get the gist. She’s smart, and I’m…well, less smart. (Is it just me, or does it feel like these sentences need a few more commas???)

But there are things I have to remind myself sometimes.

1) Copyeditors are incredibly, and I mean incredibly literal.

Exhibit A: Eyes cannot be swollen, only the skin around the eyes can be swollen.

Exhibit B:
You can’t claim that one individual is the most intimidating person in the entire world (how could you possibly know that?).

You see what I mean? L-I-T-E-R-A-L.

2) This is my book. If I want fragmented sentences, I can have them. If I want it to be blazing hot at the end of spring, I can do that. If I feel like intentionally misspelling the name of a character (to make it something, say, less than traditional), I can. My world, my rules!

Ultimately, though, you guys should be as grateful to my copyeditors as I am. They’ve saved you from reading my comma-riddled, continuity addled messes!


*dies laughing*

This is why I love you, Kim. Well, this and SO many other awesome reasons. But I totes needed this today.

Copyeditors note: "totes" is not an actual word. Could you perhaps have meant "totally" :)
Rachel Vincent said…
In my latest round of copy edits, my CE found my main character eating tomato soup with a fork. ;)
Anonymous said…
Okay, that was hilarious, and REAL. It's good to know a YA author I aspire to be like isn't some robot behind a desk that knows the dictionary by heart.
This is great stuff. I need to take notes =). BTW, I think we're twins. I'm a forger, too =).
Lisa said…
Awesome, Awesome post. Glad to hear I'm not the only comma whore out there :) And yes, I would be nothing without my editors :)
Leigh said…
LOL! You have just described my entire copy editing experience. This is TOO funny.
Thanks for the giggle.
Cari said…
LOL This is such an awesome post! Thanks for sharing!

**throws commas**
Heidi Willis said…
Bahaha!!! I'm apparently the comma Nazi. I've made such a big deal over time that everyone overuses commas... until my copy editor pointed out I need a few *cough cough* more.

I went straight to the internet and the "official" punctuation rules to prove her wrong... but she wasn't.

My excuse with language was always that Babs would NOT use the correct wordage. That's not flying so well with my new novel, which is in 3rd.
Shannon - I totes love you too! And, in my world, totes is an actual word!

Rachel - At least it was a utensil, LOL!

Heidi - There must be a comma happy-medium somewhere. I'm still searching for it.
Kristin Rae said…
A comma whore! Hilarious. I think I am too. I never REALLY know where they should be sitting.

I'm a fan of the occasional fragmented sentence and the exaggerated descriptions that aren't meant to be taken literally... how much authority does your copyeditor have exactly? Who gets the absolute last word on what stays and goes?
Ingrid reads said…
We should build a "Comma group" because I use too much commas too!
Funny post!!
Tere Kirkland said…
LOL, they have the hard job, eh? ;)

I shudder to think what a ce would think of my work.
Solvang Sherrie said…
This is hilarious!! I can just hear you saying this out loud :) I'm looking forward to WHY COMMAS RULE THE WORLD, AND STUFF :P
What a crack up! I'm sure I have a huuuuuuge list of errors too. Sigh. :D And I'm a big fan of the fragmented sentence. Huge. Especially with my flash fiction. :D
Renee said…
I'm so glad to know that you make mistakes too lol... But thank you copyeditors :) I'm awful about commas, periods, or really any punctuation.. Thanks again Kim love ur books =}
Bethany Neal said…
You just made me feel so much better about the crap I do that I'm sure a copy editor would cringe at.

PS I think ever author should have a shirt that says "My world, my rules." Comma and all. :)
Clutzattack said…
Your post has made me realize that I shouldn't be a writer, I should be a copy editor...since when you say the editor changed "envoy" to "group of soldiers" I'm now stuck with a nagging curiosity if you mean "convoy" instead.

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