Copyediting: Some Thoughts

Guys, I finally received the copyedited manuscript of A Phở Love Story. I’m feeling things, but I think I’ve gotten it all out of my system by now. Wait, hold on . . .

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways.

I’ve emailed countless copyedited manuscripts to authors and agents over the years (two today!), and now I’m fortunate to have my own neatly copyedited manuscript land in my inbox!

These manuscripts come with Track Changes, and the amount of changes depends on whether the editor requested ‘light’ or ‘medium’ copyediting. Certain copyeditors play by the rules, pointing out errors and backing up their changes with citations to the Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster. Others—and these are my favorite copyeditors—fulfill their responsibilities and also interact with the prose, leaving a smiley face here and there and exclamation points at parts that excite them.

Generally, at this stage, authors should not add huge chunks of text unless absolutely necessary. (Yes, that has happened before.) You’re expected to use Track Changes to insert or delete text but never ‘Accept’ or ‘Reject’ the copyeditor’s changes because that would undo all of their work. (Yes, that has also happened.)

I admire copyeditors because they’re able to get on the same wavelength as the author in a short amount of time (one or two months after the manuscript is considered final). Editors have much more time to adjust to the writer’s style! Sometimes the writer-copyeditor pairing might be a miss: Once, a copyeditor had done a global change of “boo” to “beau,” clearly overlooking the author’s vernacular. Most of the time, though, you can feel the synergy on page!

I am loving my copyeditor’s notes so far. I’m not surprised by the changes. This CE is diligently flagging “echoes,” or words or phrases that appear frequently and too close together. My characters apparently love to say, “I guess” or “I think.” Also, ‘apparently.’ I forget that complete sentences that appear after a colon should always be capitalized. I don’t always know when to use “can” versus “could.” When I first started writing, I always stuck to past tense. I mostly use present tense now, but the past tense slipped in once in awhile.

(Ha.)

A fun part of this process is revisiting the Vietnamese phrases that appear in my manuscript. That’s a lot! I’m finding places where the copyeditor missed/misread the translation (since the CE is not Vietnamese). It’s keeping me entertained. For example, all Vietnamese know the phrase “Chết cha!.” Its English translation is “dead father,” which is what the copyeditor listed on the style sheet. Not wrong! But in conversations, it’s often used as an interjection like “Damn it!” or “Oh my god.” I’m not mad at this translation—in fact it gave me a good laugh, and my parents, once again, questioned my sanity as I went around the house shouting, “Dead father! Dead father!”

I’ve been lazy with my diacritical marks, which are so crucial to the language. Sometimes, if one mark is missing, it can change the word and definition completely!

I’m also discovering that ‘stet’ comment is such a power tool! ‘Stet’ means ‘Let it stand.’ How bad-ass does that sound? Total ‘You Shall Not Pass’ vibes. But I’m not using it too often; I’m not precious with my words and most of the time, the copyeditor is right 🙂

Anyways, I should have titled this post ‘Professing My Love for Copyeditors.’ Because I really do love them and I wish I can carry them in my pocket.

Did you notice my new website design? What do you think? The background colors might change!

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