I’m writing this on Monday evening, December 2, 2019. This morning, I submitted my copy edited manuscript back to my publisher, having endured my annual pity party centered around the theme, “If you know so much, write your own damn book.” It’s the constant picking at the niggling details that make me crazy. Yeah, I get that “which” vs. “that” is a real thing, as is “farther” vs. “further”. And, as I discussed last time in my epistle about my comma conundrum, I’ve accepted that I’ll never get certain things right.
But come on. “We can’t take this argument any further/farther.” They both make sense.
Copy editors make me think too hard, that’s the problem. (See that friggin’ comma splice? Boy, did we hammer on comma splices at my last critique group meeting!) Even I–the passionate purveyor of the principle that there are no rules in writing–admit that there are rules to grammar, and I try very hard to stay out of the way of those who understand these things. But then there are the stylistic choices. Such as . . .
In my original draft, I wrote, “Sid asked for a Maker’s-rocks”. (By the way, that comma is properly positioned. You know, in case someone asks.) The copy editor changed it to “. . . Maker’s Mark Bourbon on the rocks”. My first instinct was to ignore the comment, but then I wondered if maybe I was unclear. Sid is in a bar, for crying out loud. Doesn’t the context fill in whatever blanks there might be? The word, Bourbon, was a non-starter, but should it be Maker’s Mark on the rocks? On the first pass, I accepted that part of the change, but on the second pass, I switched it back to my original. That sounded best to my ear.
Shouldn’t “God-forsaken” be capitalized? The copy editor lower-cased it, and for the life of me, I don’t understand why.
And then I stumbled upon The Big One. The. Big. One. How I missed this in my own editing passes is beyond me, but miss it I did: A nighttime shootout sandwiched between two daylight scenes. Wait. What? Holy crap!
My stories are all told on a pretty tight timeline, with the events of one scene having ripple effects through other subsequent scenes. The shootout couldn’t be moved from its slot in the story, and the results of said shootout have a massive impact on the next 250 pages of story. Have I said holy crap yet? Well, here it is again: Holy crap!
So, I had to re-engineer the shootout to happen in the daytime. From a tactical perspective, that changes everything. Different gun sights, different approach to the building. Different everything. But I fixed it. I made it work, and I think I was able to stitch the downrange damage back together. I think.
Actually I’m sure. Well, pretty sure. Damn.
It looks like I’ll be reading the page proofs more carefully than usual in a couple of months.
Meanwhile, here it is for the record: Thank you, Mr. Copy Editor for catching The Big One while there was still time to fix it.
I hate being caught being wrong.