Thursday 13 December 2012

Responding to copyedits

Electronic feedback  
I’ve recently had a script back from a copy-editor. It was due 29 September and I finally got it the first week of November. More and more publishers are now using Track Changes on Word documents and it can seem a bit like being at school and getting back work covered in red ink. It’s easy to think your work must be terrible. It isn’t. Otherwise the publisher wouldn’t have accepted it. Your copy editor is good.
It’s very tempting to “accept all” and be done but that isn’t a good option.
Copy-editors are not infallible
This one was pretty good, actually, and made a lot of helpful suggestions. Typos were corrected. My script was aligned with the publisher’s house-style. There were actually just one or two changes I didn’t agree with so I rejected those. And this copy-editor did make one mistake: she misinterpreted an indirect thought as a direct thought. Eventually I also noticed a couple of things she had missed. So, it is a good job I painstakingly moved to every change and either accepted it or rejected it. This usually means accepting two changes at a time – often a deletion then an insertion.
More than a proof read
A copy edit is more than just correcting blatant mistakes. The copy-editor also advises about bits that aren’t working, checks for consistency in content and form and spots stylistic awkwardness, including, for example, the over-use of certain expressions.
How I worked with this particular editor
I kept “Track Changes” on all the time, so that I could see where I made extra changes.  
First of all, I went through every change and either accepted or rejected it. I probably accepted 99.9% of them.
Then I looked at the comments in the margin and responded to them. This produced new text that I had to copy edit myself. Sometimes, though, the comment related to a change I’d already accepted.
I revisited my own corrections and accepted them.
I rechecked my new work.
I kept revisiting chapters where I’d made changes until I’d no corrections left.
All of this took about three weeks. Finally I sent back a script that was much stronger than the original because both a copy-editor and I had worked hard on it.   

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