from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

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Right, I was telling you about the copyedit.

The copy-edited ms. package consists of a number of things. The ms. itself is covered with pencil marks, usually red, and post-it notes. These are about grammar, punctuation and syntax; also chronology ("In Chap. 1 you say he died 2 days ago, but here you say Thursday. That's 3 days ago."), geography ("Can you get from the bridge to the ferry that fast?") and anything else the copyeditor picks up. (One once asked if I was sure the pay phones in Schoharie County still took dimes. In those days, they did.) Also the copy editor will change your style to the house style in terms of things like compound adjectives (I like "copy-edited ms." but Bantam uses "copy edited ms.") and whether to use upper case (or upper-case) letters after a colon.

As the author I have the inalienable right to cross out any correction and write "stet," editorialese for "let it stand" -- the original, that is. Generally in the copy edit I don't, with a couple of exceptions. I'm a fan of the serial comma (Winken, Blinken, and Nod) and I've had copy editors who take them out (Winken, Blinken and Nod). Grammatically that's fine, depending on which style manual you're using. But it changes the rhythm of the sentences. So I put them back. Luckily for me, Bantam uses the serial comma.

One change I've been un-making in ABSENT FRIENDS is interesting: grammatically, two people are "each other," but more than two are "one another." That's correct, but a lot of scenes in AF take place among children, and those sections are carefully written to convey a child's perception. "Tom, Marian, Jimmy and Jack spend their days in each others' backyards" is different enough from " one anothers' backyards" that I've been changing it back. The first is how they think about it; the second is how a narrator tells you about it. These are Jimmy's chapters, so it's his perception that's important, more important than the information being conveyed. To me, narration, even third person, is about voice as much as dialogue is, and the rules of grammar are secondary. In the chapters from other characters' perspectives -- adults -- I'm allowing the change.

Next post: the rest of the copy-edit package, and the line edit.

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