I’ve done it, more-or-less. More of Me is finished – there’ll be the possibility of minor tweaks when the proof copies are ready but all the tough writing stuff is done, including the final stage, COPY EDITS.
My Facebook pals, and worse, my Twitter followers (why don’t they let you edit tweets? I never see my mistakes until it’s too late!) will suspect any copy editor of mine deserves a medal. My typos are disgraceful but I was very careful with my script. I spell checked until my fingers bled before I sent it off, but there were still things that came back needing correction. Some of which, for the first time since the edit process began, rankled.
It wasn’t the formatting things:
‘Speech marks’ should be “speech marks”.
Indentations should be
It was questions like this, “Why is Teva pretending to be dyslexic”:
She’s supposed to be good at English – offering to help Ollie and agreeing to help Tommo – not the most convincing excuse?
Now, if Sarah, my wonderful editor, had written that, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all – so why did I have a niggle of irritation?
Maybe because I’m vainer than I think? And also, more stupid? Sarah tempered her critiques with a lot of back patting so, even if her comments meant a ton of work, I didn’t mind. We were making a better book. It was all good. There was no back patting from the copy editor. This was a sweep through the mansucript picking up any outstanding issues. And instead of being grateful for this last chance to get things right, this fresh pair of eyes on my work, I was thinking:
“But you don’t know me, you don’t know my book.”
I was, to put it bluntly, being an arse. Everything the copy editor raised was valid – how could it not be, it was her professional opinion? And I needed it – if she didn’t understand what I was trying to say, I had better go back over it and work out why. So I did, and quite often she was right – and now, of course, I’m grateful to her attention to detail.
I’m grateful, too, that it got me thinking about my own response to constructive criticism. I’ve always thought I was pretty good at it – you know, not too precious but fairly steady in my own self belief. Clearly, not so much.
This was timely in more ways than one. My beloved SCBWI critique group has been having a heart to heart – when we started out, none of us were published. We had no real deadlines and no one to please but ourselves. We could be gentle with our critiques, and rightly so – the first rule of critique is:
Do No Harm
But now many of us have, or nearly have, agents and publishers and a firm, critical, honest eye might be the difference between success and failure – or a shed load of work further down the line. We’ve moved up a level and our critiques need to follow or we aren’t being fair to each other.
There comes a point when you need to lift your chin and listen.You might not agree with what’s being said, and that’s fine, but do listen, then take a breath, and listen again. It’s quite likely, no matter how hard it is to take, that there’s something you should be hearing.