Copyedits and Page Proofs

So a while back, I received notes from my copyeditor about the Generation V manuscript (publication date May 7 – preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you like to buy your literature!). Having never had the pleasure of working with a copyeditor before, I kept in mind the wise words emailed to me on the topic by my industry insider buddy, Karen:

As for the copyeditor… Copyeditors exist for one reason: to make you realize that you don’t know the English language like you probably should.

More seriously, they clean up the manuscript so all subjects and their verbs agree and so all pronouns have a clearly identified antecedent. They prune cliches, unmix metaphors, and go on “which” hunts (ie, use “that” with restrictive clauses, “which” with non-restrictive clauses — curiously enough, the Brits habitually ignore this “rule”). Moreover, they edit your manuscript to adhere to “house style”. (Do they use “cancellation” or “cancelation”? Do they use serial commas? etc.)

That actually was really useful advice. Now, I’ve never considered myself too much of a stickler about grammar (grammar sticklers reading this blog will definitely agree) despite the fact that I teach basic grammar to college students multiple times per year. But if you ever have the experience of having your manuscript copyedited, here’s my advice: Don’t get too worked up. This is a person doing their job. One that in the end will make the book better.

A few things were very interesting to learn about – firstly, my copyeditor clearly researched a few things a bit further than I did. Now, I did a bit of research when it came to arming my hero (ie: I asked questions of friends who grew up red states), but apparently I had a few gaps, now much better filled in as a result.

I’ll be honest – when you type some search terms into Google, you end up at some really weird websites, and after a while you start worrying about ending up on government watch lists.

There were also a lot of smaller areas that I’d never even considered – for example, apparently “Nereids” is a proper noun. Who knew? My copyeditor, that’s who. Also, apparently Styrofoam is actually a brand name, whereas I tend to use it as a generic term for any white squishy material used in take-out containers. Areas like that were duly corrected.

Styrofoam: the Jacuzi of the take-out container

Styrofoam: the Jacuzi of the take-out container

Areas that also came up – my habit of using “further” and “farther” completely interchangeably. I also managed to create an incredible tangle by mixing tenses in some contexts, which was very irritating to try and unsnarl, and had a major impact on the work I’m currently doing on Book Two. Namely – I do not want to have make those corrections again. (note: I probably will have to make those corrections again)

But, very excitingly, the manuscript moved through the copyedit phase, and now I have something extremely awesome on my desk. What, you ask?

My page proofs just arrived!

My page proofs are the emotional equivalent of this photo, in that they will never stop being awesome.

My page proofs are the emotional equivalent of this photo, in that they will never stop being awesome.

Generation V has existed for a very long time as a series of Microsoft Word documents, either on my computer or emailed between me and my editor. For the first time, I can actually see what it’s going to look like as a book – it’s a very heady moment. It’s a big milestone on the way to getting published – each step makes it feel that much more real.

It sounds a little silly to say – after all, I’ve had a signed contract with Roc for months now, editors have put in a lot of work on this book, and I even have a cover now, but it reminds me of what it was like to buy a house. There were a lot of very exciting moments in the process, but until that last morning in an attorney’s office when my husband and I signed about 50,000 documents, something could still have happened to stop the process, and so buying the house didn’t feel entirely “real.” A zombie-pocolypse could strike New York city, decimating the publishing industry and leaving us in a world where contracts are no longer honored because we are too busy fighting to survive. (True fact: When I read on my editor’s Twitter feed that she was home sick with a cold, my first thought was, “Oh my God, if she dies of the flu, what happens to the book?” Then I immediately felt shame thinking that.)

“But if she did die of the flu—“ “No! You demean us both with your thoughts!”

“But if she did die of the flu—“ “No! You demean us both with your thoughts!”

Publication on Generation V now just over four months away, and I’m continuing to chip away at the manuscript for Book Two. That’s pretty much taking up my life right now – I’m hoping to finish the first draft of the manuscript by the end of January so that I can even out my schedule a bit.

Lacking a great way to finish this entry, I’ll do it with this:


About M. L. Brennan

Author of the Generation V urban fantasy series, published by Roc Books. Not your usual vampires, kitsune shapeshifters with attitude, Doctor Who jokes, and underemployment. GENERATION V and its sequel, IRON NIGHT, available wherever books are sold. Third installment, TAINTED BLOOD, to be published 11/14.

Posted on January 20, 2013, in Publication. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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