Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Editor and Copy Editor

The squirrel is back, really interested in this new book I'm working on.  She sits there for up to ten minutes at a time, several times a day, turning her head this way and that, inching closer to get a better look, not at all afraid when I lift the camera to record her existence.

Several people have asked me to explain (per the last blog entry) the difference between editor and copy editor.  This will have nothing to do with squirrels.  The squirrel photos are merely to show you who is watching me as I am writing this post.

My editor is the one who first sees my newest book (usually my third or fourth draft). She gives me both a general impression and an in-depth analysis, including detailed notes on the book's strengths and weaknesses. She raises questions about large issues of depth and meaning and character. She gives me these comments on the phone, in a detailed letter, and on the manuscript itself.  It is up to me to think through all of her comments, resolve questions and submit revisions.  The editor will continue to oversee the manuscript's development and will coordinate all issues related to design and publication.

The copy-editor (whom I have never met) is someone who sees the manuscript after I've revised it and the editor has officially approved it. The copy-editor scours the manuscript, marking it for consistency of style and format (font, headings, spacing, bold, italic) and for accuracy. She will note discrepancies (different spelling of same name, miscalculation of dates or times or distances) and awkward repetitions or phrasings. It is up to me to resolve the discrepancies and smooth or eliminate the awkward bits.

Not all editors and copy editors work the same way, but this is the way mine work with me. I've had the same editor for the past fourteen years. We've developed a deep understanding of the way each of us thinks and works and this, I think, enriches the work we do together.


  1. I liked reading the distinction between the two. But I think I've decided the squirrel wants to be your Muse. It's trying to beam your next book to you. :-)

  2. I think the squirrel is your managing editor, making sure you get the work done.

  3. NUTS!
    All I can say about you and your 'friend' is... Love that Squirrel!

  4. Mine are not fiction. Once I am finished, it is ready to print, as is. I don't really like writing books because of the amount of work that has to be done to get them in the stores. I sell books, ready to print, and retain the rights; or sell all rights to the book.

    I sat here the other night with the word NOVEL on the first sheet. And I stared at it for an hour. Finally, I turned the laptop off and didn't save anything.

    The last time I tried writing fiction, I did it on a nearby Indian village and the life in that village not far from where I live today.

    I ended up getting mad (angry) at the people who, under the banner of Jesus Christ, ruined the lives of the entire tribe using whiskey and making trades for worthless trinkets. The village site is still there to this day. I have found arrowheads there and pottery shards, hammers and ...

    Writing books is a lot of work and in my language of the day, "it sucks."

  5. I think MaryZ is onto something. It's possible that your visitor is the copy editor you've never met. Can't explain the expression in the third photo if that is the case.

    My granddaughters and I received the special gift today. Thank you so much! A treasure for certain. . . :-)

  6. Love the duality that's going on here. I'm not even sure that's a word, duality. I'll leave it to my copy editor to check it out and advise me.

  7. That squirrel is adorable. I find it interesting that she fills her day up periodically watching you. What do they think of us and our ways?

    Thanks for explaining the difference between your editor and copy-editor. I like that you haven't met the copy-editor, yet you are close to your editor. Seems to be a nice balance where one can be helpful on a personal level and the other can be very objective. The best of both worlds!

    Thanks for your special "hi" to my Maizie Jane. She took that news to school with her to share with her girlfriends. All were wide-eyed and Maizie was thrilled.

  8. This adorable squirrel is your fan, like me! :)
    Cute! :)

  9. A slightly off-subject question. . . Do you, or have your ever had, an agent? I hear that it is nearly a necessity to get published.

    An off-subject observation. . . I enjoy Abraham Lincoln's comments. They make me giggle. :-)

  10. Karin#2: Yes, I have an agent and she is invaluable.

  11. Hi Sharon, Well, the squirrel is a delightful observer of your work, and now I feel I have a much better understanding of it, too – thank you for taking the time to delineate the different hats involved in the editing team. It must be wonderful to have worked with them for so many years. Thanks for this insight and also for stopping by to visit Lunch with the Impressionists.

  12. Copy editors are the last line of defense against bad writing, and writing can certainly be bad even when it's otherwise "clean.

    Copy editing services