The process has involved so many stages since submitting the manuscript, it has been a real eye-opener.
Not only are font size, page totals and justification issues to be deliberated and cogitated, but actually seeing the manuscript safely through the editing process can be just as tricky.
As a copy editor reads through the manuscript, s/he makes punctuation, grammar and word suggestions which can:
(a) improve the flow of writing
(b) stilt the flow of writing
(c) completely change the organisation of writing and disrupt the flow altogether.
Hoping a copy edit was foolproof, I had not envisaged changing anything altered by the copy editor I was assigned. However, the last month has been spent unpicking grammatical changes, punctuation changes and the inserting and deleting of words. Of course, some changes worked, but if I'm honest these ran to less than five.
The quality of service I've received from the other two members of staff at the publishers, however, has been really good - both of them have worked tirelessly to help this fledgling author into publication. The copyeditor let the whole side down.
Here is just one list of changes sent to be rectified after receiving the first copy edited version - the red text is my comment on the way the copy editor has changed my text to an incorrectly spelt or punctuated sentence:
Sophie and her mum had come away with Aunt Penny and Cousins Danny and
Nina. Danny was her best friend, and they had been looking forward to this holiday for
cousins plural but just a common noun so lower case– not a plural proper noun as suggested
‘We can’t stay on the beach all day!’ Laughed Sophie’s mum. ‘We thought it might be
nice to explore our surroundings.’
Bad grammar splitting the speech creating two sentence fractures.
‘You have been pestering me to go to the seaside for ages, Sophie. Now we’re here and
you want to stay away from the sea! We’re going to the beach and that’s final. This holiday
cost a lot of money, and I and your auntie Penny want to enjoy ourselves too.’
Really bad grammar and incorrect lowers case change when Auntie Penny is a proper noun. Editor doesn’t do this consistently as later in the manuscript, ‘Auntie Penny’ is left alone! . . . and me and your Auntie Penny . . . . this is colloquial and is acceptable in speech. I've never heard I and your Auntie - if I was being formal, which I wasn't, it would have read 'your Auntie Penny and I'
‘Sophie, your auntie Penny is right. Go and play somewhere else.’
Incorrect lower case – this name is a proper noun and should read Auntie Penny
They admired their work for a while, before deciding to call her Arial after ‘the little mermaid’.
Incorrect lower case –‘ The Little Mermaid’ references a character and a book so requires capitals – a proper noun
‘What a babe!’ She screamed, then ran off laughing.
Incorrect capitalisation - this should read: 'What a babe!' she screamed, then ran off laughing.
‘No, Nina, you’re too young to go with them. I’ll pop-up and get us all an ice cream in
five minutes, I just want to finish this chapter.’
Pop up changed to pop-up: this now does not make sense.
They had seen nothing but a few old men in neatly pressed suits who were returning from collecting
their groceries. The houses stood like soldiers standing in attention, their paintwork chipping,
yet their gardens carefully tended and bordered with a smattering of what looked pansies in
pinks, yellows, and purples.
Changed from 'standing to attention - 'standing in attention' makes no sense at all
Danny was not so easily put off. With his chest jutting out, like a Little Robin Red-breast
singing his cheerful song, he was optimistic to the end. ‘We’re here now. Come on. Let’s at
least have a look round.’
Incorrect capitalisation: noun, not proper noun
‘Okay,’ she agreed. ‘Ten minutes, tops. Then we must get back.’
‘Deal,’ He smiled.
Incorrect capitalisation - should read 'Deal,' he smiled.
A little handwritten sign in the window read. – full stop
Closed on Tuesdays
(altered from my punctuation : This sentences occurs four times when the sign is found in different shop windows and Editor edited it the same each time ) There should be a colon or no punctuation at all.
‘Danny,’ she whispered, not sure now why she was also whispering, ‘It’s open.’
‘Well, I’m going again,’ He frowned, looking out past the glass. ‘Maybe even tonight.
You do what you want.’
Sophie could see the twinkle in his eye return and smiled back at him. She had secretly
hoped this would take Danny’s mind off the puppet shop. ‘Come to my room now.’ She
smiled. ‘And we’ll work out when to go.’
Speech changed from ‘Come to my room now,’ she smiled, ‘and we’ll work out where to go.’
Slowly, the gate opened, and they led them into the playground.
Changed from it – now it doesn’t make sense. The gate is singular so gate and it read correctly.
As you can imagine, I have been almost hysterical for the best part of a month trying to put right the incorrections added to my manuscript. Peppered throughout, I've had to compare my original to the copy edited versions (all 5 of them) Being a little obsessive about grammar and punctuation, part of me has enjoyed the process, but having paid a fee and received appalling value for money I am currently in the process of negotiating some recompense!
Life is a learning experience - ain't that the truth?!
Instead of feeling belittled by those lucky enough to be working within publishing houses, I learned many valuable lessons here:
1. My twelve years in primary school teaching makes me a damn good copyeditor so I may just start applying for a few freelance positions!
2. Having a job title does not make a person fabulous at their job. Hard work, intelligence and diligence will help them on their way and in time, they may just earn that status.
3. Have the courage of your convictions - when something is wrong tell speak up! I spent days reading and re-reading that first copy edit, wondering if I could be in the wrong, before seeing sense and speaking to someone in charge there.
So, steep learning curve for me these past few months - but now we're almost ready to go. I can't wait to see what children and adults think of my book, but I now know that I really do believe in it. And, for me, developing faith in myself has been the biggest achievement of all.