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Copy-edits

22 November 2005

Heres a rare thing, a unique thing indeed, never before recorded in the annals: I have received a copy-edit back from a publisher, and I'm actually happy with it.

For those not in the trade, a copy-edit is the nit-picking, the detailed going-over where somebody is paid to quibble over punctuation and hyphens and you've-used-the-same-word-twice-in-the-same-paragraph, that sort of thing. All of which is fine and dandy and potentially useful, only the generic experience is that copy-editors are all writers-manqué, and they overrun their briefs; what you tend to get back is a manuscript that's been partially and almost randomly rewritten, anywhere where they felt their own words sounded better than yours. I have unequivocally hated almost every copy-edit I've ever had, and have spent days and sometimes weeks trying to undo the damage, put things back the way they were, the way they ought to be. [Well, that's my version. Friends of mine who have had the misfortune to copy-edit me just tell me Im a nightmare to work with. You choose.]

Anyway, Bridge of Dreams has just come back from its copy-edit, which I had been dreading, because Americans have a reputation for ruthless interference; and it's actually the lightest, most sensitive, most sympathetic edit I've ever had. He's hardly changed a word, except for clarity, where it's really quite hard to argue with him and I'm not inclined to bother.

Nevertheless, the whole typescript has to be read through, to the same degree of detail that he gave it. Not only so's I can quibble with his quibbles, as I must; this is the last chance I get to do serious reworking of my own. That's a slightly odd experience itself, because of the way this particular book was made, with radical rewrites of certain sections; some of it has been honed and polished to a high degree, while some is still quite rough and needs hard pruning.

The really odd thing, though, is that almost no one will notice how patchwork an achievement it is. I could claim to be really good at disguising the joins, but actually it's common currency for any writer; there are always sections where the words have flowed like honey, and always sections where we've had to dig 'em out with our bare hands, and even we can't spot which was which by the time the book is published. Something about consistency of voice, I guess, which overrides the little local difficulties, the day-to-day processes and halts. But it is odd, youd think a hard days work would glare out against an easy, and it really doesn't. Usually.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.