This week I finished up my copy edits for Miraculous. I thought it might be fun to give readers here a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the process. First, let’s define some terms. Copy editing is “the process of revising written material to improve readability and fitness, as well as ensuring that text is free of grammatical and factual errors.” It happens close to the end of the editing process, after a manuscript has been delivered and accepted. Copy editing is different than proofreading, which is a final once over to check for errors while the book is in proof or galley form (the first time it appears like it will as a book). It’s also different from the work an editor does, which is giving big-picture feedback on story structure, character development and motivation, and plot, to name a few examples. Editors also give feedback on smaller-scale story details, called line edits.
Editors, copy editors, and proofreaders are all different people with different roles in making a book the best it can be.
My copy edits came to me in two documents : a marked-up version of my manuscript with comments from the copy editor throughout…
…and a document the copy editor produced called a style sheet.
On the style sheet, you learn which lenses the copy editor will be reading through (in this case, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style). That means I get my serial commas and the ones that offset adverbs like either and too — hooray! The style sheet is an overview of the manuscript and includes a list of characters with their descriptions, a timeline of the the book chapter by chapter (sometimes called a book map), and corrections to the grammatical and spelling errors I’m prone to make.
I can intellectually tell you the difference between “further” and “farther”, but do I always use these words correctly? Evidently not! Same with “anymore” and “any more”. And clearly, I have no grasp of the word “into”. I also learned callous is an adjective and callus is a noun, as I’d had a character with calloused hands. 🙂
A copy editor also finds continuity errors. I’ve read my manuscript dozens of times but never realized, for example, that I’d used two different terms for my fictional women’s organization called the Ladies’ Auxiliary. I was also asked to verify the existence of the medical books Dr. Kingsbury keeps in his wagon. All but one were real (and published before 1887, when my book takes place). The last book, my own invention, included some cure-all claims that were too fun to pass up. Here’s an example to whet your appetite: “If you are not feeling just right and cannot locate the trouble, take this wonderful medicine before its too late. You do not know what minute you may be overtaken by some dire calamity.”
Soon first-pass pages will print (also called proofs or galleys and the last time changes can be made…EEK), then it’s off to advance readers copies, which go out to reviewers. Does all this feel early for a book coming out next July? Nope! We’re right on schedule.
Each time I publish a book, I’m reminded how many people strive to make my story shine. So grateful I can lean on others’ expertise to make my writing better.