Friday, April 03, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XIII

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part IX Part X Part XI Part XII

Something a lot of readers don't know is that a copy editor can input errors and changes into a manuscript that the author never approved. This is why I'm freakishly controlling about my edits and proofs. I know that if a grammatical error or a typo slips through, most readers will blame me. After all, it's my name of the cover.

The majority of copy editors are very good at what they do. Since each of my books has gone through anywhere from one to three copy/line edits, I've had several copy editors, and only a few complaints. (Like the copy editors who inserted four misspelled words and added a lay/lie error . . . that was fun. I was glad I caught it at the last minute.)

I've really had only one really bad copy editor, and that was one of three I had for Spires of Stone.

An editor's job is to make the writer look good. They polish and smooth out the text and make the writer shine.

On the other hand, a bad editor will try to rewrite the whole thing so it sounds like them.

(This isn't just a whiny writer talking; I edit professionally and know what it takes to make a writer look good but still sound like themselves.)

That second scenario is what happened in one copy edit for Spires. I believe that this editor was really a frustrated writer, because they kept changing my voice, pulling out any personality that was me. Many sentences were rewritten so they were different . . . but no better. Entire sections were diluted from showing to telling. Humor was stripped out. Cliches (yes, cliches!) were added.
I had steam coming out of my ears.

In a sense, I'm glad this didn't happen until my fifth book. Earlier, I would have been hesitant to request that they change it back to the way I originally had it. This time, I had no qualms. With my blazing red pen, I scrawled STET (the editorial mark meaning "put it back the way it was") page after page.

Getting Spires to press had been more time-consuming and stressful than any of my other books to date. When it was done, I wanted to celebrate. But I couldn't quite do it at first, because I'd had moments of thinking I was done several times, so I waited, holding my breath for a few days before collapsing.

I've had people ask about what was changed in all those rewrites. In all honesty, I don't remember much about how the final book varied from earlier versions. I do know that my editor thought a prologue with some action would help introduce the male characters better and start the book of with a bang more, so that was added.

I remember that there was a lot of developing of Claude's character and his issues.

Oh, and the scene where the Relief Society sisters show up in support of Hannah was added (although originally put into the wrong spot, thanks to a late-night session where I had about two brain cells functioning).

Beyond that, I've seriously blocked most of it out.

Here's the cover they picked:

The artwork is pretty (always a fan of Al Rounds). But if I'm being perfectly honest, it's my least favorite of the temple covers. Part of that might be my own fault; I asked for two girls to be on the cover instead of one. Bethany and Hannah are both huge parts of the story; I didn't want readers to have to guess which was on the cover. But having two instead of one changed the basic look; they had to cram more in the same space.

One other downside is that the girl facing front looks so serious that I think she made a lot of people think that the book was more somber and tragic than it is, and that might have steered some readers away from it. (It's a retelling of a Shakespeare comedy; it has a lot of light moments!)

We all know the adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but the fact is, we all do it anyway.

I'm getting all weepy lately. Today's tour stop did it to me again:
Cranberry Corner


Kristina P. said...

I was thinking about the differences in your covers from your first books, to your temple series, and the temple covers are so much more catching!

To be honest, I don't know if I would have been drawn to the earlier books, ebcause of the coverozory.

Randi said...

I love the temple book covers! My favorite one is Tower of Strength.

I can't imagine trying to edit someone else's work. I think it would take a special talent.

Lara Neves said...

Well, I hope that copy editor didn't have a chance to do that to another writer's book.

I really need to read Spires of Stone. :)

Heidi said...

That copy editor should have been taken out and shot.

Anonymous said...

Loved the Cranberry review! That was interesting about the copy-editor. I would have been flaming mad.

Question: Can I ask if you'd clarify in word nerdiness the errors or uses of "then/than" and "grey/gray?" A friend and I have been debating the grey/gray thing a lot lately. =]

Carolyn V. said...

Is she still a copy editor? That is a little scary!

Annette Lyon said...

Carolyn, I doubt it. I never knew the person's name, but I got the impression it was a freelance editor doing work for my publisher on project-by-project basis.

I heard a couple of other author horror stories from about the same period, so I have a suspicion that they wouldn't have continued hiring her. I still don't know her name--which is probably a good thing. :)

Rachel Sue said...

When I started college, I went in with the plan of becoming a copy editor. But I couldn't stick it out. I missed my lit classes too much! But occasionally I've thought about that. What kind of qualifications does one have to have to be employed in the field? I don't know if I would be good at being able to change the grammar and what not and keep the flow, but I could sure find all the errors!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Heidi's comment totally cracked me up!

I used to have such a head for grammar but I lost it somewhere between University and childbirth...

wendy said...

Hey, that is a totally cool looking cover. Editing sound like it would be very hard. Just editing my posts is --well enough for me and I still make errors. Doing tours for your book would be such a cool feeling.

amelia said...

That's my pet peeve with the writing I submit. I try so hard not to do it when I'm editing people's work. Good for you for standing up!

Melanie Jacobson said...

Oof. I would have been so MAD at that copy editor. I think you've just blogged one of my secret worst writing nightmares.

Jenna said...

Well, I hope I done ya proud! Every bit of praise is well deserved. You rock.

Fiauna said...

I've been told by some friends to check out your blog--so here I am. I must say, I am impressed.

Oh, I've had the copy editor problem but was too clueless to know I had any power over the whole process. Ouch. I'm glad you had the gumption to stand up for your work.

Heatherlyn said...

That's very interesting about the editing process. You must have to be very humble to consider the requested changes and actually make changes. What a looong process. Although I get the feeling that it doesn't necessarily cover a long period of time.

Chas Hathaway said...

Does an author really have no say in the cover? That stinks! Well, these covers do look good at least. Are you able to communicate directly with the artist, or does the publishing company do all that?

- Chas

Annette Lyon said...

Chas, It's a rare situation where the author gets any say in the cover. In theory, the marketing and graphic design people know what will catch a reader's eye. So the writer crosses fingers and hopes for the best!


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