Sarah Rees Brennan (sarahtales) wrote,
Sarah Rees Brennan

Copyediting a Manuscript

You guys may have noticed that I’ve been strangely, sweetly quiet lately. Probably you were just thankful for that and didn’t wonder what I was doing. ‘Best not to speculate,’ you said to yourselves. ‘She could be up to anything.’

I have been up to copyedits!

Copyedits are something that happens to you after you’re finished with your edits, meaning there will be no more major changes to your book and your editor’s pretty happy with it. (Or she has dramatically flung down her red pen and said ‘Enough of this! I have many editorial things to do. You’re going into copyedits… and may God have mercy on your soul.’)

You can have several rounds of edits before your editor is happy with the book. I was very lucky: I had one. A girl I know had eight! The book is a shining pearl of perfection now of course, and she’s fine. When unkind people don’t startle her by making loud noises.

So going into copyedits goes a bit like this…

SARAH: I am done! All done! I know what will happen in my book, I will never be asked to change anything else. Oh I am so happy. Nobody has ever been as happy as me. And you know what this means, flatmates! It means party time.
FLATMATES: watch Sarah do a combined jig and Moonwalk across the floor
FLATMATES: look very sad
SARAH: Oh yes, copyedits. They correct teeny weeny things like spelling and grammar, don’t they? Easy peasy! A snap! After all, I was the school spelling bee champion and I have completed my actual edits. I am INVINCIBLE!
COPYEDITS: are opened
SARAH: Oh dear God what are these arcane markings.
SARAH: … Somebody’s gone mad. It’s either me or a total stranger hired by the publishing house.
SARAH: Yeah, it’s probably me.
SARAH: No, wait! I’ve worked it all out! This is code. A devious spy’s code. I must get it to the Secret Service immediately or the nation will crumble. Yes, that makes sense! It’s all so clear now!

Sometimes copyedits are a simple matter of your copyeditor switching ‘Nick said’ to ‘said Nick.’ Then all you do is stare at that, wonder why she changed it and if it matters and which way looks best, and then you tear out all your hair and use the torn-out hair as a hanky to wipe your fevered brow. Simple!

Sometimes your copyeditor will have bigger changes: she’s got a far away enough perspective of the book to catch things like the time of day. This is especially helpful for me – I use weather like a mood ring for my characters sometimes.

SARAH: Blow, winds, blow, and crack your cheeks!
COPYEDITOR: Uh, but it is June.

Sometimes we come up against the language barrier.

COPYEDITOR: What is candyfloss?
SARAH: What? Are you kidding me? You buy it at fairs, it is a pink and fluffy cloud of deliciousness on a stick!
COPYEDITOR: Oh cotton candy.
SARAH: Cotton? Ew. Cotton is material. Have you ever tasted cotton?
COPYEDITOR: Well I can’t say I…
SARAH: Cotton is not delicious!

Copyedits are also your last chance to get in eleventh-hour brilliant ideas. And not so brilliant ideas, like adding the Spanish Inquisition into your surfing scene. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Particularly when the surf is up.)

In the last week I was mostly to be found sitting in a nest of papers in a café, cackling weakly to myself at intervals. Sometimes my friends would come by and while I made odd sounds like a koala in a tin bath, they would pat me. I rewrote a few scenes so they actually made sense. I added a few things I thought were funny. I took some of them out because on later reflection, they were insane.

I was on the iced hot chocolates, you see. Sometimes I got the shakes. But then...

SARAH: Cassie! I am finished with my copyedits! Now it is party time.
CASSIE AND CAFE RESIDENTS: watch Sarah do a combined jig and Moonwalk across the floor

But I do not care, for I have a beautiful new fan community called marmalade_fish and a beautiful finished website (, baby, yeah!). I am done with my copyedits and now, for a limited time only, I am INVINCIBLE!


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