Back in 2005, I attended the Denver Publishing Institute, and we spent almost two weeks on editing, with several sessions worth of copyediting tutorial. I’d always thought, because I was a huge reader, aspiring writer, and an insufferable grammar nerd, that I’d be a perfect copyeditor. I mean, I’m one hair away from being one of those people who corrects signs outside restaurants and stuff.


I took this picture in Las Vegas back in 2006. Apparently the misplaced apostrophe bothered me so much I felt the need to document it. Or maybe I took the picture because the friend I was with at the time is actually named Margarita (we call her Maggie). Can’t remember…either way, it’s an inexcusable error. I wanted to take a Sharpie and mark it out.

What I learned during the copyediting unit of DPI is that I would not make a very good copyeditor. I’m just not detail-oriented enough, which amazed me, and I’m a bit too sloppy. I was okay, I got solid Bs on all the assignments, but I was just never going to be focused enough to go through a manuscript word by word, basically, and correct all the subtle flaws. This was driven home again when I looked at my own copyedited manuscript when I got it two weeks ago and thought, “Oh, boy, I could never do this on my own.”

Thank God for copyeditors. I hate word repetition and am quick to recognize it in the work of others, but for some reason I miss it in my own work, because using certain phrases becomes habit and starts to sound right to me. This is a recurring theme in my revisions, but my copyeditor caught even more than Joanna, Francoise and I had caught. I’ve said it before, but really, bringing a book to the shelf takes a village.

My favorite part of the whole process were the queries in the margins, because so many times the copyeditor’s suggestions were incredibly helpful and I just had to write, “Change okay.” I was really terrified when I got the ms back, because even though Joanna, Danielle, Francoise and I had worked on this book for an incalculable number of hours combined, I knew it was a copyeditor’s job to find plot inconsistencies, and in a regular book that stuff usually isn’t a big deal, you just make a small change, but in a mystery a small change can invalidate the entire story!

Thankfully, it looks like we’d done a great job of catching and fixing most of the plot problems in earlier rounds of revisions, and there was only one “Au: Discrepancy…” note. I admit, when I saw it my heart stopped, but then I read it and I thought, “Hm, I disagree.” So I went back through the ms and wrote out a (hopefully) very clear, concise explanation of the way I saw the events (it was a timeline issue) proceeding, and I’m pretty sure I’m right. As Francoise reassured me, we have first pass pages left, so there’s another change to look back and make sure that’s right–and even if it’s not, all I have to do is change a line of dialogue to reflect the correction, so it’s not that big of a deal anyway.

As I think I’ve said on my personal blog, copyedits was by far my favorite part of revision. It made me feel confident in the work that I had done, and I finished the process happy and a little nostalgic. I know I’m not done done, that there are several stages still to go through and the book doesn’t even hit the shelves for another eight months or so, but turning in the copyedited ms felt a bit like closing a door, or saying goodbye.