Copy Editing A Novel, by Helene Young
Last month I did a blog post about structural editing. Today I want to talk about copy editing and what this brings to your story. If structural editing lays the foundation then copy editing checks to make sure the colours and tones are perfect.
A copy edit can be just as protracted as a structural edit and with Half Moon Bay my editor chose to send me the work in batches as she finished working on them. It certainly made the task feel less daunting and more manageable.
Copy edits address things like repetition of phrases, overuse of words, lack of continuity in a scene or discrepancies in the action. Some of these issues will arise because of rewriting in the structural edits. A character may have had a significant shift of focus during the structural edit and that change will now need to be rechecked during copy edits to ensure they are still a consistent character. They may have taken on a larger role, so extra detail will be required to make them more rounded.
Sometimes it’s just random inconsistencies. My editor discovered Ellie was a little busy in Half Moon Bay changing clothes when she should have been rescuing people. We’d amalgamated two scenes and Ellie started out in a loose cotton shirt and cargo pants. By nightfall she’d ended up in an oversized t-shirt and track pants. The discerning reader would have picked that up and sent me a polite email pointing out she hadn’t been home during the day and was unlikely, in the middle of all that action, to slip in a little side-trip for clothes shopping!
I have a terrible habit of finding new words to torture. This time round we had a lot of rippling (of muscles of course!), rolling of shoulders (you’d think they were in a shoulder rolling contest…) and cradling (of heads). In an earlier book my editor left me a succinct note – ‘If she tosses her hair one more time, I’ll cut it off!’ I got the message…
Sometimes it’s as simple as reusing the same word or phrase within a paragraph or two. Here’s an example of solving that dilemma.
‘…Ron barely waited for her to start the car as he struggled to get the seatbelt fastened. ‘So, are you going to tell me
the whole storywhat’s going on?’
She shot a quick glance at him. ‘You mean Lawson?’
‘Right. But don’t get cranky with me.’
Ron listened as she poured out the whole story. He shifted his big bulk in his seat and ran a finger around his collar when she spoke of having Nick over for dinner…’
A fresh pair of eyes is crucial to identifying these issues. If you are considering self-publishing then you need to either employee or find people you trust to do this important editing for you. With the best will in the world you will read the words on the page in the order you want them to be, which is not necessarily the way you’ve typed them!
Once this editing step is completed you’ll know you have all the walls painted and the soft furnishings in place. Your novel is almost ready to go. This is also the point where a publisher will release Advance Review Copies (ARC) to be sent to booksellers and reviewers as the sales and marketing team make their pitches.
From here the final step is the two layers of proof reading. More of that next time!
Helene Young’s author website: www.heleneyoung.com
Writing Novels in Australia