Friday, August 3, 2012

Copy Editors

I love my editors. Did you get that from Wednesday's post?

Copy editors are a whole other breed. Their job, after the editor is done, to nitpick the whole manuscript. They check for consistency, spelling, house style (where to put those commas, how to handle em-dashes, etc.). They do fact-checking, too. (When I wrote The Assassin as Rachel Butler, the CE double checked my use of "Tulsa County Sheriff's Department" and found out it was "Office" instead. I didn't know that!)

(They also tell you if you use too many parentheses, dashes, ellipses . . .)

I've learned a lot from my CEs over the years. And one of the things I learned is that they're not always right. I had such an experience with a CE years ago on a romantic suspense novel in which she wrote me a two-page letter explaining why my entire story failed because it was hinged on my misunderstanding of the Constitution and suggesting ways in which I could fix it to make it at least slightly believable.

Of course, first thing I did was panic. Rewrite the entire book? At that late stage in the process? Next, when I could breathe again, I called my editor and said, "My legal information comes from my husband (who's got many years of city, county and federal law enforcement experience under his belt), the local district attorney and the Attorney General for the state where the book takes place."

There was a moment's silence, then my editor asked, "What are you talking about?"

She didn't know the CE had sent the letter. She was not happy about it.

There have been other bobbles -- one CE who wanted my Oklahoma granny who dropped out of school in eighth grade to speak the Queen's English, one who thought it sounded better to say that Dallas is a hundred miles closer to Houston than it actually is -- but mostly I've had good CEs.

And truthfully, I'd make a lousy editor. I get too caught up in the story to worry much about the big picture.

But you can ask my friends: I'd be one heck of a nitpicking copy editor. :-)

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