Attack of the Killer Copyeditor (II)


22 April 2009

I’m about one-third through the copy-edited pages of Long For This World.   The process has been a bit painful but, overall, instructive.  I apparently have no idea when or how to use hyphens, for example.

The stakes feel high as I go through.  My last chance.  This is going to print.  “The most difficult problem for authors proofreading their own work,” the Chicago Manual of Style writes, “is to resist the temptation to rewrite in proofs.”  Um, yeah.

Mixed metaphors, nonsensical references, needless repetitions.  I’ve yet to feel a strong, tormenting pull to delete this scene or rewrite this entire dialogue, thankfully (a character’s name may change, however — eek!).  Basically, the book is done.  Or, as they say, it’s never done, just abandoned.

It’s a strange feeling, to know your work’s fundamental flaws and yet to also know that It is what it is.  It’s what you set out to do.  Inevitably, one feels both proud and disappointed simultaneously.

Here’s another aspect of that dissonance: every time I read through it, a different section will strike me as strong or weak.  The last time I read this one particular section — a sort-of love scene — I cringed a little.  This time, I was moved by it.  Go figure.  A work of literature really is a living thing, hyphens and all.


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