Thursday, January 31, 2008

This Is Progress?

I’m in the process of going through the copyedited pages of THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT. Normally I get back my own manuscript pages with the copyeditor’s changes marked in blue. No longer. This time the publisher required me to send in a disk with my final version. The copyeditor inserted her changes on the document, using the function in Word that lets you track changes. Supposedly.

There’s the rub. She obviously went through the entire manuscript with the search and replace function, and wiped out all capitalizations of things like the Colonel, the President, the Administration. None of these changes are flagged. Do you KNOW how long it’s going to take me to go through and find all of those? I, of course, do not have the electronic version. At this point I’m only allowed the printout sheets, since all sorts of printer instructions have also been inserted.

But it gets worse. Perhaps it’s something about the process of sitting at a computer rather than blue-penciling a manuscript, but she also seems to have been inspired to rewrite chunks of my manuscript, changing my style to something far more anal and, well, English majorish (my apologies to all English majors out there), as well as just plain different. The brothers whom I described as being “around eight or ten” become “nine or ten.” A young woman talking about a “guy” now talks about a “man.” My favorite is when the villain, rather than squeezing the trigger of his gun, squeezes his gun. At one point, the heroine is groping to find the words to describe the remote viewing experience. She says it’s like a daydream, or a memory she holds in her mind. My helpful copyeditor changed it to “it’s like a memory.” Period. Well, gee; I could have thought of that myself, if that’s what I wanted to say! I’m surprised she hasn’t taken it upon herself to rename my characters.

I could go on and on and on, but I won’t. And don’t get me started about all the times she changed the sense of what I was saying, so that the text now says the opposite of what it did before. I have now published thirteen books and I have never, ever, had anything even remotely like this done to my manuscript.

I’m not a prima donna. I really appreciate copyeditors who catch my mistakes. But she’s not catching mistakes, she’s inserting them, and completely changing the tone and style of the work. that’s not her job. Someone take away this lady’s computer and make her use a blue pencil!


Chap O'Keefe said...

Like any published writer, I've had the odd point of difference with copyeditors. I've also been grateful -- over the course of 20 westerns -- for the occasional "save" when I've made a silly mistake.

And I've worked as a copyeditor on fiction -- but that was in pre-computer days.

Yours must be the most extreme example I've heard of yet where a copyeditor has taken liberties without checking back. It sounds, frankly, as though someone has gone berserk!

I hope you will keep us posted as to how this case is resolved. An important principle is at stake.

Could it be that so little power is left to editors these days that they have to make their presence felt by "rewriting chunks", as you put it, of their authors' manuscripts?

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like absolutely carelessness in the sense of that word that the editor didn't give a care, or a thought it seems, for the meaning of the material. Squeezing the Gun was just outrageous.

I don't envy you dealing with this nonsense.

Farrah Rochon said...

I would have been outraged at the capitalization mishap. That's just laziness on her part to use the "fine and replace all" function. When dealing with a document that size, the possibility that something like this will happen is too great.

Unfortunately, I share your copyeditor frustration. Just this week my copyeditor and I had a few extreme differences about my upcoming novel. She wanted to change major parts of the book (as in my hero's occupations, which is a significant part of the plot).

This naive first-timer thought a copyeditor's job was to catch those mistakes the author and editor missed, not rewrite the book. Silly me.

Good luck!

Sphinx Ink said...

Wow. I'm shocked to find the copyeditor went beyond mere corrections to change text so extensively. I hope you can get your book editor to side with you on how inappropriate it was for the copy editor to do what she did. Not to mention, of course, the copy editor's failure to use the Track Changes feature appropriately and to send you the electronic file. As you've discovered, there's no way you can track what she did without it, because the printout will only show the revised version.

Aieee! Start burning the phone wires (or infrared wavelengths) to New York right away.

Steve Malley said...

At least she didn't describe the kids as 'nine, plus/minus one', or better yet, 'approximately nine'...

Take it to 'em with hot tongs...

Lana Gramlich said...

How asinine! At least when I submit a painting for a show I don't get it back painted over with something completely different. *sympie hugs*

Shauna Roberts said...

Standard American usage in both books and newspapers is to lowercase "president," "pope," "colonel," etc., except when when they precede a name: the president of the United States BUT President George Washington; the pope BUT Pope Joan.

As for the other things your copyeditor did, this copyeditor can provide no explanation or excuse.