[process] The Green copy edit

So last week on returning from Foolscap, I received the Green copy edit in the mail. See here and here. See also my reaction to my copy edit of Mainspring, the first full tilt boogie trade press copy edit I’d experienced.

Green was my third copy edit from Tor, second from this particular CE. Per my post about the Mainspring copy edit, it came with a fair amount of supporting detail, including production directions for the front matter of the book.

As I commented recently, I did not want to lay aside the Tourbillon draft to work on this. I’ve been keeping my baseline commitment of at least two hours and 2,500 words per day, and really felt a need to stay on track. I’d managed to keep both my writing and exercise schedules at Foolscap, and FenCon was coming up next.

This took a lot of time management.

First I read through the supporting detail carefully. That specifically includes the author queries that come with any copy edit, but also checking over the lists of character names, place names, terms and so forth. The I read the manuscript fairly quickly. I was skimming text and paying attention to the copy edit marks, while also focusing on the queries. Most marks I left in place (it was a good, clean copy edit), a couple of style things I changed back to my preference, and I cleaned up a number of boogers and errors the copy editor caught. I used a purple pen so my notes were a visibly different color than the copy editor’s brick-red pencil marks.

At that point — I was at FenCon by then — I’d hit my minimum deliverable on this. If I hit a time-wall, it could go back to Tor. However, I also really wanted to read the book again carefully. Which would make about the eighth time I’ve read this manuscript since the initial draft back at the beginning of the year.

(As an aside, for me, writing a initial draft is an experience somewhat comparable to reading a book for the first time. That probably says something deep about my writing process, or perhaps something shallow about me.)

I started reading it again, pen in hand, line by line by line. At this point in the book’s life cycle, I’m not really in the business of doing a rewrite. What I was patrolling for was infelicitious turns of phrase, word echoes which had been missed in previous passes, poor transitions within or between scenes. Basically, a final reading pass to check the quality of the finish on the book. I probably made 150-200 minor corrections from this process, including marking up about four of the eight pages the copy editor had not marked up. This included several inserted sentences and one brief inserted paragraph to bridge a minor continuity error. Otherwise they were all small changes — adding a word here, dropping one there, altering punctuation to affect the rhythm of the text.

The book will come back to visit me one more time as galleys. At that point I’m reading for gross typos, errors in the typesetting and layout process (for example, repeated paragraphs or dropped sentences), and serious errors. I won’t have the luxury of even the surface level editing I did on this copy edit.

It’s like putting finish on a fine piece of wood. Each pass requires a lighter and lighter hand. At some point imperfections in the underlying grain or the lower layers of the finish simply become part of the character of the piece.

And I’ve remembered once more that I really, really like this book. I hope you guys do, too.