This is one of a series of blog posts (no spoilers!) about the actual process of writing a book from the idea to the hardback in hand. In this case, the group effort behind the magic.
The so-called Final Draft does have the singular benefit of—once it’s red-stamped by the editor as actually being the final draft—generating a check from the publishing house, one of four the author gets before actual royalties kick in. (Perhaps I should talk about advances, one of these days? No, that may be too tedious.)
But it’s “final” only in the sense of the manuscript then being tossed to the Production team, to have their way with it. Part of Production is copyediting. And because my publisher loves me, it has (so far) permitted me to do paper copyedits rather than e-edits, which I detest to the point of considering retirement….
So, first they printed off my e-doc, with their additions to it, a sort of mock-layout for the book.
They added some of the material that goes at the front, including the book list, in case I have anything there to correct (as it happens, I did.)
Much of what the copyeditor does in a paper edit has to do with underscoring my various punctuation marks for the typesetter, to confirm the italics with underscores and that the “—” is indeed what is called an em-dash, rather than a hyphen. (And no, I have no idea why they have to do this, since once I send the manuscript back, all my changes are then uploaded onto an e-doc—I told you my publisher loves me—and that is the master doc they all work from. As far as I know, the typesetter never sees a single piece of paper anymore. Hey, so far as I know, they don’t even have typesetters any more, and yes I could ask, but I do so cherish the image of small hunched-over men in greasy aprons plucking type from trays.)
Where was I?
Ah yes—the copyeditor.
Other parts of her input are more to the point. Here, she found a missing “a”, added another article to the title of Bosch’s painting and put it into italics, deleted the hyphen in “pale green”, and found a place where I used the word “magnificent” twice in the same line. And failed to catch it. Duh.
Another thing the copyeditor does is go through with a fine-toothed comb looking, not for nits, but for specific quirks of LRK. The Style Sheet has words and names carrying over from previous Russell stories (shown in bold) but adds in words, names, and phrases (English, French, and Bengali) from this book in particular. She also laboriously goes through and notes down every single plot development, which I will admit I did not have the heart to read. I can only hope the process of distilling endless novels into CliffsNotes does not reduce the poor woman to a loathing for fiction in general.
This story also had what the publishers call an “authenticity reader.” When someone like me (a middle-class white American woman—who, granted, was married to a man born and raised in post-Victorian India) steps outside her own personal life experience and writes about—in the case of Lantern’s Dance—India in the Nineteenth century and French Indians in in the Twentieth, it helps a lot to have someone closer to the inside of things check to make sure I haven’t put my foot in it and dropped in an inadvertent insult, wince-worthy stereotype, or glaring cultural cliché. I talk about color and class/caste a fair amount in the book, and I found this reader’s comments tremendously helpful. She understood what I was trying to do, had no wish to dilute the story I was telling, and provided me with more effective ways of doing so.
Plus that, she liked the book, so clearly, she’s a discerning reader.
Next week: a bit about research.