(Firstly, I’m still trying to figure out if “copyedits” is one word or two!)
When I received my copyedits a few weeks ago, I was not unlike other starry-eyed writers navigating the many stages of publishing, (stages we may have dreamt about), for the very first time.
Was it magical? Sure! Exciting? You bet! There’ll never be another first copy edits, I reminded myself, so soak up this moment! Suck out the marrow! Embrace how far you’ve come! (And the fact that you’re still somewhat sane!)
But I can’t deny it was equal parts terrifying.
Just as another writer friend expressed, I circled that chubby package of hard-copy copyedits “as if it were a wild animal”. I had a deadline of May 23rd, and could ask for more time, if needed.
Good thing, I thought sheepishly, as I lost the entire first week to nerves. Only, I’d never missed a deadline before, and wasn’t planning to this time, either. We’re professionals, after all.
Some say during copyedits, a writer’s secret weapon is STET: don’t change. Keep as written. But it’s also a lot of power … the power to be nearsighted as a writer, in a bid to keep things “your way” … the power for your book to hum instead of sing because you failed to avail yourself of the sharp, professional minds surrounding your work. Sure, it can be difficult to let go of your pet words and phrases. But what the best publishing teams want is for their writers to shine, not twinkle in mediocrity.
Agent Betsy Lerner says it best in her book, The Forest for the Trees, An Editor’s Advice to Writers.
While all the meetings are going on, the manuscript is also being physically prepared for publication. It will be copyedited, a process that the best writers appreciate. I have authors who insist on using the copyeditor they worked with previously, so profound is their respect for that person’s careful eye and command of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and other nuances of language, and so deep their gratitude for having been spared embarrassing errors. For the writer who truly loves language, a trip to the copyeditor is like a week at Canyon Ranch spa. You come out looking younger, trimmer, and better groomed, and standing straighter … In general, copyeditors are unsung heroes, the men and women who stand as the last line of defense against the fall of civilization, so fierce and exacting is their protection of the English language.
That’s exactly how I feel about my copyeditor, so grateful am I for her deft touch.
Not only have I lived to tell, but I emerge from this experience more confident, standing straighter, and so does the writing (as it makes its way to NYC on time).
Thank you, Carol Edwards, copyeditor extraordinaire!