We have come to the hardest part of writing a book. Let that sink in: those sleepless nights, the writer's block episodes, the agonizing over what scenes to cut out or add in...and it was all child's play until now. We have come to copy editing.



Don't worry...in this film the theft as a MacGuffin, but of you followed the previous lessons your work was not Credit



You probably just laughed. Fine, keep laughing. Copy editing will kick your ass. Every met a copy editor? These people are not human. Their ability to memorize, attenuate, seek and destroy is unparalleled. If the great war to end the world ever comes, I want a fleet of copy editors: I'll just make them read the manuals, then pilot jets and destroy all my enemies.  And they will fucking do it: they are not human, they are gods.

Now, let that sink in: they are gods, and now you, human, must do the work of a god. Good luck. I can't even do this properly. Luckily you and I have the same excuse: we're writers, and thus allowed to be temperamental artists when we so choose. As such, hunting down every typo, every misspelling, every grammatical error is beyond your capability. Still, you must give it your best shot.



If you were a boy scout who'd won ribbons with a .22, a copy editor would be this sniper and have 33 confirmed kills Credit



Remember using your downtime in recent breaks to network and shop around? You better have done that, because those people become your new best friends shortly. Did you also get a grammar book and use various breaks to peruse it? You better have done that!  As a writer you must understand connotation, denotation, and grammar rules. Words are living art and you must know how to assemble and use them effectively.As a writer, critics pay far more attention to your style than your plot. Real critics. And real readers.

So right now, if you haven't done those things, go do them! Compile a list of possible critique readers or copy editors and soon we'll cover the vetting process. Now it is time to sit down and edit.

Fun fact: it's harder to edit on the computer than it is with hard copy, particularly if you're old enough like me to remember when desktop publishing was only starting to gain respect as more than a novelty. So print it out, it's also easier to mark changes.



You can edit on the computer, I do, but this often happens. Credit




Step one: remember you are just editing for spelling and grammar. Is a sentence a good thing to end using a preposition with? NO! (I hope you got that pun...if not, go back an re-rad your grammar guide.) However, grammar is shaky. If you have a character from a background without formal education his speech can be grammatically incorrect, it denotes how he talks, but your exposition and narrative must be free of grammar errors. Hunt them down! Aim for grammar first, when you do this spelling errors just pop up.

Step Two: After your grammar check, go and fix any errors you've found. Once that is done, run a spell check (ignore grammar check, it is functionally useless to you). Be prepared to slowly go over a thousand and one typos and misspellings you missed. Don't feel bad: one Laurell K Hamilton published book misspelled deity nearly 1,000 times (as "diety") because neither she nor her birdbrained editor ever fucking ran spellcheck. Run spell check and make corrections!

Step Three: Repeat step one. Are you insane yet? No? Keep going. Trust me, you will never get every single error. Copy editors will, this is what makes them gods. 

Step Four: Repeat step two. It should go faster this time, but you'll catch a few new things.

Step Five: Read the entire thing, from the beginning as a reader (If you haven;t ever read Mortimer J. Adler's How To Read a Book this is a time in life when it comes in handy...ever writer MUST read this book at some point). You may want to take a break before doing this, otherwise you will have the manuscript memorized and tend to skim, which you cannot do in copy editing. As you actively read look for spelling errors and small typos solely now, ignore grammar. Then go and make changes.

Step Six: Do one final spellcheck, complete it, then go smoke a cigarette, eat some M&Ms, and chug some whiskey to restore your sanity. this is exactly why writers drink.



Remember, sage words from a master: "Write drunk; edit sober." Credit




You're going to need some downtime before you actually send your work off to editors/critique readers. We'll explore that fully in the Writing 103: 2- series. For now know each of the above steps can be done with a break in between. You can pace the steps out but try not o take more than 2 weeks to do so.

You need a break from your manuscript, so in our next lesson we'll cover something equally grueling as editing that deceptively seems like fun at first: marketing. Until then, happy editing!