Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Post With My Writer's Hat On

This week my book went to copy-editing, which is essentially the last stage of editorial. Generally editorial works like this, after you signed the contract, but in this case it started before we actually signed the contract because it got held up for a ton of reasons.

1. I, according to the contract, give them a polished copy of the manuscript.

2. The editor suggests revisions and you do them, or the editor likes it the way it is and says "I'm sending it to copy-editing."

3. You panic on a level on which you've never panicked before, knowing that once it goes to copy-editing, no major revisions (addition or removal of scenes, etc) can be done, and this is you presenting yourself to the world even if the novel has nothing to do with you, so G-ddamn it, it had better be perfect, because those Amazon commentators are going to find something wrong and you're going to look like an idiot, you just know it.

4. The editor eventually pries the manuscript out of your hands, assures you that it's fine, and sends it to copy-editing.

5. Months later, it comes back with some minor (grammatical) revisions, you get a final pass at it, and it goes to press. Changes at this point are only cosmetic.

Last week I was not a sane person, and worried about this scene that I didn't do and that scene that I did do and was I really satisfied with it and G-ddamn this thing had better be perfect and so on. Granted, I am very, very grateful to be this far along and having my lifelong dream fulfilled and whatnot, but DAMN, this sort of thing will keep you up at night.


Anonymous said...

Philip Lopate once published an essay about this very phenomenon, and likened it to going through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief:


... and all this for something that's supposed to be a GOOD thing. Funny how life works, eh?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I'm waiting for galleys as I type this and I kind of don't want to look at them because I'm terrified I'll see something that absolutely must be fixed but that I'm not allowed to fix.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I'm waiting for galleys as I type this and I kind of don't want to look at them because I'm terrified I'll see something that absolutely must be fixed but that I'm not allowed to fix.

D. Robert Pease said...

Congratulations though, that is a great accomplishment, even with all the stress... or maybe because of it.

Deb said...

The items you related are the bad news. The good news is: it gets easier. With your next book, I predict you'll stress half as much, and with book #3 only half of that. I've been through this 5 times now, and it's been less stressful and more easily managed every time.

Blessings on your work and its success.

Anonymous said...

The only step here I find unbelievable is NUMBER 2 -- the possibility of any editor liking a book enough to NOT give you a huge editorial letter before sending it to the copyeditors. No reflection on your writing, but I'd be horrified if an editor said, Yup, great job, off it goes.

I want comments, questions, and for her to say WTF is this section here for?!

Anonymous said...

I think Johno makes a lot of sense. I sometimes think of writing as the process of killing the best part of yourself so something better can flourish. The relation to the stages of dying suggests a deeper connection for one of Nietzsche's insane outbursts: "That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts."

Anonymous said...

You forgot a step--- you receive your fabulous brand new book and are paging through it and there are TYPOs and things you should have removed and they will turn to RED and BOLD and THROB so you are certain every reader will see one and toss the book away in utter disgust, just utter disgust so you slam the cover shut, knowing you are now facing the absolute embarrassment of autographing the thing...and soon...everyone will know...

Anonymous said...

By the time my book went off to copyediting, I was so sick of hearing my own voice in my head I never wanted to touch the thing again.

Thomas said...

I've had a similar experience while editing film.

The editor and director have direct control until we have "picture lock," meaning that all of the edits have been finalized. It then gets sent off for foley, music, dialog re-recording, advanced color correction, final FX, credits and a million other little tweaks that I don't directly oversee.

I'm lucky I still have hair.

I'm sure the book will be fantastic. Trust in your talent and the skill of others.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a similar place with my book, though I think the small press I'm writing for may do it a little differently. We worked through some structural issues before they agreed to a contract, and then my editor told me to give the book a rest (not look at it for a month) then get it to the point I'm happy with it, then send it to him as a "final first draft."

It is weird how the process shifts. Three months ago, I was mortified about cutting chapters. How can I lose this wonderful section of my wonderful book? Now, I'm a little nervous that I won't be able to prune it anymore--the structure of the book on my hard drive is pretty much the book that's going to be on shelves in 2009. Eek.

none said...

It's pretty nerve-racking on the copy editing side of things too. Just so you know :).

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about perfection at this point. Since your book made it this far, it is likely perfect as is.
I'm sure you will have plenty of readers.

Amie Stuart said...

LOL I'm kind of with Anonymous! I'd freak if I got no edits (as I sit here waiting for edits on #3), but I actually do have a friend who gets NONE and that freaks her out even more....

I guess we're damned no matter what heheh

Josephine Damian said...

So when does this perfectly copy edited book come out? What's the title? :-)

Congrats on your book getting closer to being released.

Anonymous said...

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief:



As shown in this Robot Chicken clip on YouTube...

Anonymous said...

If we promise to keep your identity a secret, will you tell us each privately the name of your novel when it comes out? Some of us are clearly curious and want to give you a fair reading.

Michelle O'Neil said...


...and thank you for your blog.

Terry said...

You have arrived! You have arrived!

Of course it's scary, but half the bozos who smack you on Amazon will do it just to feel better about themselves.

Remember that.

You have arrived!

And you're doing the rest of us a hell of a service with your blog. Please do not abandon us after they ask you to do Jon Stewart.

Anonymous said...

Terry: I share the sentiment, but the pattern I've noticed has led me to conclude that Jon Stewart just doesn't do novels. Even by big-time blockbusters. Notice Rowling wasn't a guest on the show, and the last time Stephen King appeared, it was because he wrote a nonfiction book. Is it rude for me to interrupt with a gust of reality? Novels would be a liability if they entered the mainstream media.

Although, as I said, I would still like to read it.

Kidlitjunkie said...

Unless your book never reprints, you can always make changes. If you get the shiny, bound copy of your book and spot a typo, it can get changed in the reprint.

And typoes, etc in galleys can be changed as well.