The dreaded edits – Part 2

Word processing file with editor's comments on the right-hand side

Word processing file with editor’s comments on the right-hand side

On the 11th of February I blogged about the first phase of editing my novel “The Elephant Girl”, the phase which is usually referred to as substantive edits. Today I’m talking about the next stage, copy editing, which is slightly different.

As opposed to substantive edits, which deals with elements such as plot points, characters, pace, etc., copy edits is where my editor and I will tackle little mistakes and inconsistencies as well as unfortunate expressions which may (unintentionally, of course) either confuse or irritate the reader – and embarrass myself as writer! Here the copy editor concentrates on the details of language, spelling and punctuation, checks references and makes the novel into a coherent whole in terms of style and layout.

This is done on a so-called “clean copy” of the word processing document from the 1st phase. A “clean copy” means a document where all the previous changes have been marked as Accepted and incorporated in the new version, and it will typically have been given a new name, e.g. “TEG 3.2 – editor’s name”

The trouble with doing substantive edits is that changing one thing will have a tendency to snowball leading to perhaps five new things which also need to be changed, and you’ll have to go over the document very carefully to make sure you change all the other elements affected by the first change. Sadly it’s very easy to miss one or two, especially if you change something on, say, page 80 which has consequences for elements later in the story, but perhaps also before that point. During copy edits the editor will then go over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and hopefully pick up on all these little inconsistencies.

So what does this mean in actual terms for my novel? Well, I experienced a cold, prickly feeling when I realised that I’d used the expression “a cold, prickly feeling”, or similar, no less than nine times…

Stet (= delete) one!

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11 Responses to The dreaded edits – Part 2

  1. Liv Thomas says:

    The domino effect is exactly how I described it, Henri. It was like being buried under dominos. (Dominoes?) I think we’re on the last lap now. And I’m on my last legs… Good luck with yours.

  2. Oh but I did enjoy your wrap-up line. Isn’t it funny how some novels seem to contain one over-used phrase.

    That was a really informative summary of the process, Henri. And as for sunshine, it’s snowing here in Kansas City.

    I hope you manage to finish the rest of your edits without any more ‘cold, prickly feelings’:)

  3. Good luck, Henri. Don’t we just love that domino effect? I’ve got a house of cards one ahead of me I think with Romancing. Lovely. Can’t wait:) Hang in there – and you, too, Liv X

  4. Liv and Sarah – yes, the “domino effect” is a good expressions, and it captures the effect perfectly 🙂

    Beverley – I think all writers have a stock phrase, and “cold, prickly…etc” is clearly mine. Shall have to watch out for that one.

    Carol – You’ve been through this process many more times than me, so I’m sure you can’t possibly be scared!

  5. I can hardly wait to get started 🙂

  6. vallypee says:

    I can so relate to this! I have been editing my book and realise the frequency with which I have used the expression ‘so to speak’. Horrific! they’ve all got to go! Other words keep cropping up too – ‘she sighed’ – sigh…

  7. suefortin says:

    Thanks for sharing this Henri – I will admit to having a nightmare with current WIP as I have expanded and added and then have been trying to check for continuity. Although I do plan my writing, I think I need to plan in even more detail in future. Looking forward to reading The Elephant Girl.

  8. rosgemmell says:

    I understand this so well, Henri! It’s good to share the process for those still to ‘enjoy’ it. And thanks for mentioning me on ROMNA!

  9. helenphifer says:

    Thanks Henri, I had no idea what any of it meant except for what I thought it was and it’s a lot different to the reality. I’m waiting for my second batch of revisions to come through and these articles have been very useful. Thankyou and good luck with your edits 🙂

    Helen x

  10. Glad people found it useful. I actually wish someone had taken the time to explain this to me when my first book was accepted – forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes, and I agree with it even more so now as I’m going through this process.

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