Copy editors good and bad

I’m in the process of interviewing copy editors to work on Hollow World. I’m still hoping to get the editors that Orbit has used in the past, but my agent needs to obtain that contact information and she has been in Germany for several weeks. To ensure I’m not left hanging I’m also looking elsewhere.

I placed a small ad on the job board at the American Copy Editors Society. I’ve sent a few pages of Hollow World out, and they return it edited to see if our styles align. Most have been very good.  One so far has been down right hilarious.

I like copy editors that fix my hundreds of mistakes and make me look better.  For instance an example from The Crown Tower:

  • Mine:  The cords of Grue’s throat stood out from the strain.
  • Editor’s: The cords of Grue’s neck stood out from the strain.

A simple change, for certain, but oh so much better. This was something I wouldn’t have caught myself so my editor has just saved me from embarrassment.  Thank you!

Like doctors, the first rule of editing  should be “do no harm.” For me, personally, the worst copy editor is the wannabe writer who tries to “fix” your writing by augmentation. I may not be the best writer in the world, and by no means do I think my prose is sacrosanct. But for the love of God and country don’t do this to me:

Mine: Her smile appeared less forced then.

Editor’s: Maybe it was his imagination, but he sensed that her smile appeared less forced.

Now granted mine wasn’t going to win me a Pulitzer, but it was succinct and efficient and got its job done.  Why did this editor feel that he needed all the qualifiers?  Even politicians don’t waffle that much. He removed the single word “then” and added 9 words that did nothing but hemmed ad hawed.

The above was one of his most minor transgressions.  Another one of my favorites.  When describing the color of the cabinets in the doctor’s office I mentioned they probably came in choices of gray or white. But the editor felt those color choices weren’t sufficient so made them “pallid white or cadaverous gray.”  Really?  Seriously?  First off pallid is defined as “abnormally deficient in color” which is what white is – so using both is just redundant. Make something pallid or white but not pallid white. But cadaverous…I’m glad I was drinking at the time as I would have snorted milk.

Okay, enough venting…I promise you Hollow World will be properly edited no cadavers in my colors.  I’m off to do some writing in Rhune.



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