Monday, September 21, 2009

Working on the copyedited manuscript

I received my copyedits yesterday--a printout of the Word file with Track Changes showing. HarperCollins uses the Word document itself for typesetting (rather than re-keying... does anyone still re-key these days?) so someone in-house will "accept" or "reject" the copyeditor's corrections and take in any additional changes that I make.

For anyone wondering what this stage entails, here's how I approached it.

Firstly, I read through the covering note, house style, and all the CE's comments and corrections to check the extent of the job. The manuscript has been coded, which means codes are added to things like line spaces and chapter numbers to instruct the typesetter.

There were a few typos (let's blame Word, which stopped displaying errors after my document reached a couple of hundred pages), a few queries for "sense" (where something wasn't clear to the CE) and lots of house style things like hyphenation. Overall, the CE did a thorough job and, fortunately, there wasn't a lot for me to think about.

Then I went to Office Max and bought a pack of erasable Crayola colored pencils (because the instructions from HC told me to use a colored pencil) and a sharpener and some sticky notes. I never use pencils if I can help it because I don't like how they drag on the paper. As an editor I tried a mechanical pencil but kept breaking the point, so I was stuck with a grey-lead and frequent use of a pencil sharpener. I much prefer using ballpoints.

Note to self: Don't buy erasable colored pencils again! Although being able to erase is useful, the lead itself is chalky and crumbles as soon as you sharpen it.

Anyway, the next thing I did was curl up on the coach with my red Crayola and deal with the CE's comments and changes, adding sticky notes to anything that needed further attention. I gritted my teeth at the addition of serial commas, which as a reader I find distracting (especially in fiction), but the Chicago Manual of Style likes it so HC likes it.

Then I went to the computer and opened up my manuscript file. In the weeks since it's been out of my hands, I've made additional changes to that file (using Track Changes), so I copied all those changes into the hardcopy set.

Last of all, I went through the sticky notes and sorted those out. In four places I added a couple of sentences either for clarity or to make changes necessitated by the sequel, so I typed those in a new document and printed out each addition on a separate page, marked, for example, 77A for the insert on page 77. On page 77 itself I wrote "Insert 77A" in the appropriate place and slotted in the insert page behind it. This is all per HC's instructions but in any case it's the standard way to do things.

Oh, and I also worked on the dedication and acknowledgements. I'll go through everything one last time before sending it back--my deadline is October 6th but I think I'll be done before then.

The next time I see Song of Scarabaeus it will be as page proofs. At that stage it's too late to make changes (other than actual errors) because it's expensive to reset lines, paragraphs and sometimes entire pages when the text flow is altered. After 11 years as an editor, I can testify that this doesn't actually stop authors from fiddling with their pages...

One more thing: I went back to my electronic file and copied over all the changes, so I have a complete updated version. Next it's off to Kinko's to photocopy the hardcopy before returning it.


Tez Miller said...

What's a mechanical pencil?

Serial commas seem rather American - we sure didn't learn to use them in Aussie school ;-)

Sara Creasy said...

It's a pop-up pencil!

And yes, serial commas are an American thing. Unless absolutely needed for clarity, they are a Very Bad Thing.

Carradee said...

I like serial commas. They clarify that "shirts, jeans, underwear, and socks" are all separate list items, whereas "She sorted out her shirts, jeans, underwear and socks" could be interpreted as "underwear and socks" being one pile.

Commas don't necessarily mean and. They also serve as pauses and breaks for clarity. (Thus the reason they surround appositives.)

I can't use wood pencils. They irritate my skin. :( But that means I'm good with mechanical, and you can get colored lead.

When I used my own pens at my copyediting job, I noticed that red actually did not show up the best. Magenta did. :)

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