I’m copy-editing. It’s dull. And must be done. I stare in wonder/horror at the ms covered in the copyeditor’s little squiggles and slowly plough my way through the pages. Most of the queries are perfectly fine, wise even, and will tidy it all up, make it look like I know where the colons & semi-colons go. (I don’t always. And, to be honest, I don’t much care. I probably should, but I don’t really mind. I’m happy with a whole lot of commas and/or short sentences. I know the semi/colon-lovers aren’t.)
AND some of the copyeditor’s queries are genius. Offering a phrase or two that will turn an ungainly sentence into one that makes sense – on first reading. (Always useful.)
Some of them though, are the ones that raise writer’s hackles, some of them would mean using words/phrases I simply would never write – and actually I do want the queried word or phrase or paragraph to stay like that, exactly the way I wrote it (and edited it, and edited it again, and edited it after Agent’s notes, edited it after Editor’s edit!!). Some of the queries/suggestions would do away with whatever ‘voice’* or style I have, and render the ms completely stelladuffy-‘voice’-free. And this is possibly (in pure telling-the-story terms) not entirely a bad thing. But not entirely a good one either.
So I compromise**. I make the assumption that the person copyediting my book knows what they’re doing. I probably accept 80% of their editorial suggestions. (I accept about 98% of their grammarial suggestions!!) But the 20% that I don’t accept is the 20% I really care about. And I make sure I really care about it before I write ‘stet’. I don’t do it to prove who’s boss, or that it’s MY book, or anything else. I do it because I care this is the best book I (and everyone else who’s worked/working on it) can make it, right now. I know I used to be far more fussy (precious!). Now I do trust that everyone who is part of this process is doing their best for the end product.
I’d be interested in how other writers find the copyediting process? I think it probably raises a few hackles for all of us …
‘*’ because I’m actually a little dubious about the idea of a ‘voice’, always sounds a bit pretentious to me …
**I assume the copyeditor has compromised too, taking into account that I write the way I write, that it’s worked more or less for eleven books and will probably work for the 12th, so they’re not totally trying to iron out all that is ‘me’! The person who has worked on this ms seems very fair, I have had others in the past that really have tried to take out anything that feels like ‘me’ and it’s been very irritating. (And led me to ask why is the copyeditor copyediting, not writing their own book, given how much they appear to be re-writing mine?! The previous sentence does not apply to Ruthie Petrie, who is an unsung Mistress of the Copyedit.)