April 5, 2014

E Is for Editing

With all the changes in publishing, more writers are deciding to go indie and publish their own work. A good idea for a lot of reasons — too many, in fact, to discuss here. However, if you decide to go that route, you must accept that you are now responsible for all the technical aspects needed to produce a quality product. 

Once you have written your book, you must consider that if you want a professional-looking product, you need to find skilled people for the design, copy editing, and proofreading tasks. Believe me, readers can tell the difference. Just look at the comments sections on Amazon — readers often mention poor book design, editing, and proofreading. Why? Because poor production values make the books harder to read and messes with a reader's enjoyment of the product. (It also might prevent someone from buying your second or third book.)

While design is important, my post today is about editing, and to some degree, proofreading.

What do copy editors do?

Copy editors catch the grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors not picked up by spell check or computer editing programs.

Photo courtesy of Nic's Events
Good copy editors also have minds like giant trash dumps. All sorts of odd and unrelated stuff lives in there. This is important because this trick is what makes an editor go, "What?" It's an educated gut response that says, "This doesn't seem right and is worth a look."

For example, writers often misspell hotel names, store names, geographical locations, and get minor and even major facts wrong. If a reader knows the correct name of a building or the correct spelling of a store name, or who made designer cigarette cases during the Art Deco period and you don't, it can make the reader less accepting of other aspects of your work. 

Bath Abbey
My personal favorite? Often I see Regency Romance writers refer to a building in Bath, England, as the "Bath Cathedral" — Wrong. While a grand old pile, the building is officially The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Bath, commonly known as Bath Abbey. The cathedral for the area is in Wells. (My husband and I lived in Bath for two years, so this one truly irks me.)

Historical anachronisms also make me stop. Writers sometimes use a "prop," like a gemstone, that hadn't been discovered at the time of the novel setting. A good copy editor often catches these bits and pieces and suggests alternatives to the writer.

Another potential problem is word usage. Writers often use words inappropriately. Not that they use words totally opposite to the concept they are trying to convey — they merely use a word that, while close in meaning, is just far enough "off" to be incorrect. Could be an overuse of a thesaurus or just a misunderstanding — a good copy editor will fix this.

But I can't afford it.

Not all good copy editors charge the earth for their work. Check around and get referrals from other writer friends. In my opinion, that is the best way to go. (I would avoid online sources such as eLance. They might seem like a good deal, but you often will be hiring someone who is not a native English speaker.)

I am a good copy editor. Over the years, I have edited and written material for publications ranging from a luxury trade quarterly to technical theater magazines, to detailed course material needed for trade certification. I also have provided advertising copy and website content. Additionally, I was the editor for the Italian-American lifestyle La Voce News Magazine. And, for several years, I was the dance and classical performing arts reviewer for the Las Vegas Weekly and the California Literary Review

You would think that I could copy edit my own work. Not really. I still prefer it if a copy editor and/or a proofreader goes over the final copy. It just makes it stronger. 

A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

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  1. Thanks for the good advice! I wasn't really sure what being a copy editor really entailed, but now I know. And just in case I ever decide to write a book (nervous laughter) I'll be super careful about the editing and formatting - I'm kind of a stickler for those things anyway! marci (fuzzyundertones.com)

    1. Marci -- If you ever need a good copy editor, let me know. Rates are reasonable and quality is high. ;) I work remotely so where you live isn't even a problem.

  2. A good copy editor &/or proofreader is invaluable...great post!

    D.B. McNicol
    A to Z: Romance & Mystery...writing my life