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!