Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Copyediting

Regardless of how much we'd like to pretend otherwise, none of us is very objective about our own writing, and I'm not just talking about the storyline.  We miss all kinds of mistakes in the body of the work because we breeze right past them.  After all, it makes sense to us, and we'd pick up on it if there was something wrong.
(That wall looks fine to me)
I consider myself to be pretty good at proofreading my own stuff, but even I'm not crazy enough to think that I'm going to catch every mistake.  I've given my novels to a few people, even after I supposedly polished them, and every person has come back to me with something along the lines of, "You don't mind if I marked up the typos do you?"  Therefore, prior to putting anything into the public sphere, I will have a third party look it over, and by that I mean someone who can make a fair assessment without worrying if I'll disinvite them to my house.

There are a couple of books I've read recently that could've used another round of proofreading.  One Second After by William Forstchen was a pretty good read, even if I disagreed with his view that our society would completely collapse.  However, he makes a mistake throughout the text that drove me absolutely crazy.  In places where he obviously meant to say, "I could've used that information last week," it came out as "I could of used that information last week."  The book is full of mistakes like that every ten or so pages, and it makes me want to scream.

AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

So I'm a little bit anal about things like that.  I don't consider myself a Grammar Nazi - I couldn't tell you the difference between a dangling participle and an indirect object - but mistakes like the difference between "would've" and "would of" are like nails on a chalkboard to me.  Language is the basic way we discern intelligence, and when a person does something so stupid, it grates on me.  It also interrupts the flow of the story and forces me to try and return to the momentum I had before this kind of crap forced its way into my field of view.

Another book I'm reading uses language that makes me trip over myself.  In a lot of places, the author uses the word "whilst."  This word can be effective if used sparingly.  However, it gets under my skin if...used...every ...other...word.

"Whilst the Germans rolled over France, the British evacuated Dunkirk.  However, Hitler failed to press his advantage whilst he enjoyed air superiority, and it cost him dearly.  He should have used the Luftwaffe more often whilst the boats moved the Soldiers back to England."

AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

A good copyeditor would have caught these kinds of mistakes and at least given the author a chance to think about whether or not they were appropriate in those places.  Someone with an English degree could've jerked Mr. Forstchen by the collar and said, "Listen you idiot - this is the kind of mistake I expect from a 5th grader, not someone who has made the New York Times Bestseller list on several occasions."

Yes, a copyeditor is going to cost money.  Decent ones will probably run around $1200, but if you plan to make this whole writing thing a career, you need to fork over the cash and try to be professional.  If you don't, your readers will notice, and you'll quickly go from new literary genius to cocktail party joke.

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