Monday, October 25, 2010

Publisher-Requested Edits and Revisions

IMS00173My second book in the Memphis Barbeque series, Finger Lickin’ Dead, will launch June 2011. Last week I got the copy edited version of the manuscript—with items for me to clarify and corrections for me to make.

I was very happy to see that there weren’t really many edits or revisions to make. But I couldn’t feel smug about it—because it’s not like I always write clean copy. You’d think that it would be more of a linear thing—that the more books I write, the cleaner the copy gets. That’s sometimes true…and sometimes not.

But, despite the light load, there were my usual problem-areas to address. Editors are worth their weight in gold.

There were a couple of mind-boggling mistakes on my part that made me grit my teeth and get completely irritated with myself…and wonder if I’d had a small stroke in between the problem sentences. The cook is grating cheese and then is abruptly chopping onions? In the same sentence, practically? Really, Elizabeth!

The way that Berkley works is that even when these really, really stupid errors come up, they ask what I’d like to do. So on track changes, there was a comment in the margin—a polite “Would you rather have this be cheese? Or onions?” They don’t automatically pick one for you—you rewrite the problem area.

So, a few times where I guess the phone had rung when I was writing (or I temporarily lost my mind), and I made inconsistent statements, continuity errors, etc.

Now, of course, typos or style mistakes get automatically corrected. But not continuity or timeline errors.

A couple of the mistakes were much more subtle. There’s a can of beans that plays a (small) role in the book. It started out as baked beans. Then fifty pages went by and I referred to them as pork and beans. Then another one hundred pages went by and they were baked beans again. Continuity errors—got to love them.

This happened because I was writing the book pretty much straight-through—and I’d thought I’d written pork and beans, as I was busily working on the scene. I’d gone off of memory instead of checking the reference earlier in the manuscript.

I didn’t catch the error. My first reader didn’t catch it and my agent didn’t catch it. Thank goodness for the copyeditor. I went back and fixed all the references, thanking the editor in my head again.

Most of the errors were mistakes like that. They were easily fixed.

There were a couple of timeline errors that were also easily fixed—where I’d said that something was going to happen in a particular frame of time, but then—if you counted up all the days when I said “the next day” or “the next morning” or “two days later,” then the event hadn’t happened in that timeframe.

This is also a fairly common error of mine. It helps to keep a spreadsheet of the days. It can get complicated when lots of events happen during a novel.

Luckily for me, there was only one error where I went, “Oh hell.”

It was a timeline error and it was a fairly big one. It was going to cause me some rewriting.

I did what I usually do when I face a bigger revision—I slept on it.

The next day I made a list of all the possibilities I could think of to write myself out of the hole. And found the solution to the problem in my list.

What kinds of revision problems and edits do you usually run into? And how do you resolve them?