Laurie King, e-dinosaur
Well, friends, we’re one step closer to this:
To my great consternation, the 21st century is nipping at my heels. All these years, I’ve done copyedits on actual pieces of paper: I’ll finish a book and send my editor a lovely clean copy, spa she can take up her pencil and slash it to pieces, adding questions (Oh, those dread little queries that cost me two days to set aright) and remarks (and Oh, how I treasure her Huzzah!s and Love it!s and her hearts) and changes small and large onto the pages. She then hands the whole thing to the copyeditor, who makes her own changes—in a colored pencil, so when the document comes to me again, I can tell their two comments apart at a glance. I am then given authority to accept, or to override (with STET, exclamation point optional) any of their suggestions, but it makes for a three-way conversation, with each of us suggesting our opinions in how to build a stronger book. (Some writers, I should mention, bitterly resent and battle any incursion on their prose. I am not one of those.)
Now, I’m not a complete dinosaur, so I’ve done e-edits before on short stories, but I loathe the process. (So does my editor, truth to tell. She’s very happy with the pencil-marks-on-dead-trees method, thank you very much.) E-edits are not only impersonal, and risky (I’ve had entire stories fail to register my changes) but they’re really tough to make sense of, either on the screen or a printout. Still, I’ve managed, grumbling all the while. But as I say, for going on two dozen books now, this has been a conversation, a collaboration, a last chance to rescue the book from unclarity and mediocrity. I need to feel the texture of the editorial process.
But I’m not enough of a diva to demand that the thing be sent back to the copyeditor so she can make her changes again in green pencil. I did bitch, and loudly—particularly because for some abominable reason, the thing came with both sets of comments—editor and copyeditor—in the same bilious green, which could not be re-set, so I couldn’t tell them apart without squinting at the attribution.
Once I had bitched and told them that no, I wasn’t going to do the whole thing as an e-doc, I then figured out how to shift the actual typescript portion on the page so it would give me some facsimile of normal-sized font, in spite of the comment-bubbles that took up the right-hand margin, then printed it out to wade my way through it. The first run-through always involves the more or less mechanical changes, accepting them or STETting them, and sticking a Post It wherever there’s a remark I need to deal with. After a few days, the thing looked like this:
Finally, this not-quite-blind dinosaur tucked 500 pages of manuscript back into the Fed Ex box and sent it back. Yep, The Murder of Mary Russell is off my hands, until I get the pretty typeset Proof pages. When I get those, I’ll read the entire book aloud—and not sotto voce, either—to check for those annoying repeats and odd phrases that have persisted despite our concerted efforts.After that….
Well, April 5 will be here before you know it.