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.