From the Edit Cave

There’s this scene in the Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo – his tubby fingers no doubt greasy from the bacon or cupcakes he’d been pigging out on with Gamgee – drops the One Ring in the snow on the slopes of Mount Caradhras.

(I’ll point out at this juncture that Mr Butterfingers’ SOLE job was to drop the Ring. Into Mount Doom. Which he failed at. Nice plan, Sir Ian McKellen.)

Anyways, poor old Boromir walking along behind picks it up, and staring at it all wistfully as it bends his tiny mind, he says: ‘It seems a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over such a small thing. Such a little thing…’

Well, this kinda sums up how I feel about commas right now.

Yes, I am COPY EDITING. What’s copy editing, Jay? Glad you asked.

Writing a book kinda goes like this:

First Draft – this is where you come up with all your cool ideas and bang them down onto the page as fast as you can and who gives a tinker’s cuss about punctuation or proper grammar no time for that if you stop writing you will die just get it down on the page son griffins in feudal Japan goddamn right you can make that work that shit is gold

Second Draft  – this is where you go back and try to fix all the awful mistakes you made in D1. Where is the punctuation? Where is the plot? Is it hidden under that moist, quivering pile of adverbs in the corner? Oh my God, it’s LOOKING AT ME.

Third Draft – you’ve found the plot, and brushed off the lint and shoggoth spittle. You love this MS. LOVE. IT. Everything about it is perfect. You send it to the Agent.

You curl into a trembling ball of pre-emptive rage for the next two weeks, your only movement being the twitching of your mouse finger as you refresh your email every five minutes to see if Agent has replied yet. The thought that anyone would change a single word sends you into fits of garment rending, all stomping about and roaring like Khal Drogo with less impressive pecs.

Agent Draft – this is where your agent tries to tell you all the bits of your MS that SUCK without actually using the word “suck”. Agents earn roughly half their commission during this shivering little dance.  Your vows before the Mother of Mountains to  make slaves of your Agent’s children and drag his broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak are met with good humor. You see lots of sentences beginning with “Maybe we could…” or “Could we consider…”

And it’s always “we”, because you’re in this together, don’t you know, and if your Agent actually reminds you that it’s “you” who’s going to be making all these changes, armed only with your secondhand Macbook and a tub of ultra-choc-chocolate icecream, your tiny mind might just snap right in two. And then your Agent will have to find another client, which means snatching up a machete and heading back into the slush pile and oh my GOD, fuck that…

Unless you are gifted, or your agent is smoking blunts under his/her desk during lunchbreaks and thinks everything is far out, this stage always ends the same – back to the drawing board for you.

Editor’s Notes – you’ve drained the MS of the obvious suckage, and pulled enough of it and your psyche back together to send off to The Editor. This is the point where your entire book can get dismantled, where your Ed pulls at one lose plot thread and everything unravels like bargain bin K-Mart knitwear. And you find yourself on your hands and knees, scraping together this pile of tangled wool and blubbing “Noooo, I can still make this work. It’s still good. IT’S STILL GOOD…”

Eventually, you stitch it back together. And if you’re very lucky your editors kick ass, and the book is so much better that you want to travel back in time, accost Third Draft You and just punch him right in the neck for his arrogance.

Copy Edits – this is the part where punctuation becomes The Enemy. A place where you find yourself deleting and re-inserting the same comma two dozen times, and feeling like a completely reasonable, rational human being whilst reading the same sentence aloud to your dog, over and over, like some idiot savant reciting pi to 3,000 decimal places. Pondering the mating habits of semi-colons, staring at the same full-point for 45 minutes at a stretch, as if within its tiny black depths you will find answers to the enigmas of  life, the universe and Dane Cook’s popularity.

Someone explain Dane Cook to me, please.

Anyways yes. I’m copy editing. Which means I’m reading the same words repeatedly until I go mad or blind. I think the first part has already happened. This explains my absence on the blog and email and whatnot for the past couple of weeks. For this, I apologize.

In case you’re wondering about the pic above, it’s the first chapter of STORMDANCER in Wordle. I love Wordle.

Anyways, back to it. These semi-colons are breeding like tribbles.

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About Misterkristoff

New York Times and Internationally Bestselling SciFi/Fantasy author, and master of drunken karaoke-fu. View all posts by Misterkristoff

21 responses to “From the Edit Cave

  • Corey

    Good to see you out of the cave chum!!! We’ll need to get some beer into you, STAT!

  • Louise Cusack

    Wow, thanks Jay. That made me laugh and feel all nostalgic, which is quite okay when you’re writing first draft. However by the time I got to the end of your post I was feeling that quiver of Oh that’s right, the rest of the process is REALLY bad and I’ve somehow made myself forget that. Like having amnesia about what happened in the labour ward. Yet still we go back. I think that’s even more a mystery than the popularity of Dane who…?

    • misterkristoff

      I guess we keep going back because we get this little bundle of awesome at the end of it. Plus, it sure beats most other ways I can think of spending my free time.

      Hard as it gets, it’s still 100% awesome, and one of the coolest things we’ll ever do 🙂

  • Shari Arnold

    Huh. I’m in round two of edits. And I figured it would get better from here on out. So… thanks for that.

    • misterkristoff

      Hahaha, it’s not that bad. You’ll love it 🙂

      I actually enjoyed 2nd round edits – I found it really fun, seeing what suggestions worked and what didn’t. It felt like playing in a sandbox to me. But copy editing is really nitty-gritty, fine detail work, which I’ve never been great at. My mind starts to wander and I find myself… ooooh, cupcakes….

  • Heather Anastasiu (@h_anastasiu)

    Lol, copy edits are next for me, I’ll try to brace myself. All the edit rounds involved in actually getting published are a continual suprise. And then I think…will this ever be finished? Will I ever be able to stop editing it and worrying about this turn of phrase or that? And now I know I get to look forward to obsessing over comma placement. It’s a wonder we all aren’t in straight-jackets at this point

    • misterkristoff

      By the time you finish on book 1 edits, you’ll be almost ready to start edits on book 2. While you’re writing book 3. And then you’ll be launching book 1 and editing 2 and 2nd drafting 3 and wondering what you’re going to write after book 3 is done andohmygodwhydidyoudothistoyourself

      But HEY, beats sitting around watching the telly, amirite? 😀

  • jessicacorra

    I’m at the stage where all I can do is giggle and weep. simultaneously. Is that before or after the dancing unicorn hallucinations? where is my machete? :twitch:

    😉

  • Jennifer Rush (@Jenn_Rush)

    Oh I am LOLing so hard. But the scary thing is, YOU ARE TOTALLY RIGHT. It’s really like that and I’m sure when I hit copy edits, I will obsess the same way. *shudders*

    And what you said to Heather—andohmygodwhydidyoudothistoyourself—has crossed my mind more than once. But yes, it beats the alternative, which in my case, is cashing someone else’s check. 😀

    • misterkristoff

      Hellllllll yes. That’s what I keep reminding myself of, every time I get frustrated or start seeing dancing commas in my peripheral vision.

      There are far worse ways to be spending your time than becoming a published frackin’ author 😛

  • Lindsay

    Oh, come on, man, the Agent Draft wasn’t THAT BAD! 🙂

    (And yeah, I’m right at the tail end of my Editor Notes right now. Beginning to wipe the tears of frustration from my eyes, and seeing light at the end of the tunnel.)

    • misterkristoff

      Haha, never let the truth get in the way of a good story, LT. But we haven’t been through bk 2 Agent Draft yet. We might hate each other after that one.

      Go you! Just remember – all you gotta do is rub that lamp and I’ll say Mister Aladdin sir, what will you pleasure be, well let me take your order, jot it down…

  • Clara

    Brilliant, Jay!
    And yes, Dane Cook plain and simply, sucks. Up until my 4th revision (before agent,editor and copy writting. Hey, English isnt my native language). After that, he becomes just hilarious! Mr.Buttercup, my rainbow-colored unicorn who won American Idol, agrees.

    • misterkristoff

      You own a rainbow colored unicorn? Hot damn, can i borrow him for the weekend? i have some zombies I need to slay the shit out of.

      I find Mr Cook becomes funny after the fifth bourbon and a couple of self-induced punches to the face.

      Wait, who am I kidding…

  • Kristen Simmons

    This made me laugh so hard I cried.
    Just wait until the first page pass, when you look back through the MS and think, “After all that, I still put the comma there. WTF is wrong with me.”

  • Kristen Simmons

    PS. OMG! I JUST CHECKED OUT WORDLE! THAT’S AMAZING!

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