On the 11th of February I blogged about the first phase of editing my novel “The Elephant Girl”, the phase which is usually referred to as substantive edits. Today I’m talking about the next stage, copy editing, which is slightly different.
As opposed to substantive edits, which deals with elements such as plot points, characters, pace, etc., copy edits is where my editor and I will tackle little mistakes and inconsistencies as well as unfortunate expressions which may (unintentionally, of course) either confuse or irritate the reader – and embarrass myself as writer! Here the copy editor concentrates on the details of language, spelling and punctuation, checks references and makes the novel into a coherent whole in terms of style and layout.
This is done on a so-called “clean copy” of the word processing document from the 1st phase. A “clean copy” means a document where all the previous changes have been marked as Accepted and incorporated in the new version, and it will typically have been given a new name, e.g. “TEG 3.2 – editor’s name”
The trouble with doing substantive edits is that changing one thing will have a tendency to snowball leading to perhaps five new things which also need to be changed, and you’ll have to go over the document very carefully to make sure you change all the other elements affected by the first change. Sadly it’s very easy to miss one or two, especially if you change something on, say, page 80 which has consequences for elements later in the story, but perhaps also before that point. During copy edits the editor will then go over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and hopefully pick up on all these little inconsistencies.
So what does this mean in actual terms for my novel? Well, I experienced a cold, prickly feeling when I realised that I’d used the expression “a cold, prickly feeling”, or similar, no less than nine times…
Stet (= delete) one!