photography

snow around a frozen pond in a wood

The definitive proof

On Thursday afternoon, The Bone Dragon is going to be ready for publication. This might seen a long time in advance since it won’t be released until 2 May, but in the interrim it needs to be printed and distributed… and there may even be ARCs going out.

I have now learned that bound review copies are not the same as ARCs (advance review copies). Or not necessarily.  I’m still a bit shaky on the terminology but I think bound review copies and bound proofs are basically the same thing in everyone’s books (or should I say ‘for all books’?). They’re copies of a book that are produced from a relatively early proof. They’re printed and bound  like a book, but usually with a different cover to make sure that they’re not confused with the final publication version when it comes out. ARCs, on the other hand, are just copies of the book-as-published-for-sale (i.e. they’re printed from the final proof). Thething that makes them ARCs is that they’re sent out to people before the official publication date: they’re not actually different in any way from the books people buy off the shelves after the publication date.

So… the bound review copies have now been sent out. I am getting twitchy waiting for mine to arrive.

Meanwhile, the final proof – the definitive version of the book – will be done by next Thursday afternoon. It should include the final version of the cover (which I’ve yet to see). I’m just slightly excited*, though I know hitting send on my proof approval email will doubtless be as anticlimatic as handing over my PhD. (‘Oh, right. It’s done. Right. Um… Well, I guess that’s it then.’)

Sometime after that I’ll be able to share the cover (probably mid-March), and some sample material (probably  2 April) and… hopefully some reviews (no idea).

I can’t wait to see what you all think. I do hope you’ll like it.

 

* English understatement. Please translate appropriately.

Frosted fir branch

Waiting

The final proofs are done (though there might be one last read-through). The review copies are being printed (I think). Next week the cover will be finalised. But right now there’s not a lot going on that I’m involved with. Since the start of December, I’ve been wading through the quiet pre-publication post-end-of-editing strange and trying not to gnash my teeth. It’s all about waiting, torn between impatience, excitement and terror… And, while I’ve never been very good at patient or waiting, I can do excitement and terror like a star so am spending much of time revved up to no purpose.

Soon we’ll have the cover reveal and I’ll get to see what people think. Soon there will be sample material available… and maybe some early reviews or at least informal feedback on the reception of the ARCs (advance review copies or bound proofs, as Faber tends to call them). Soon I’ll be having a meeting to plan the promotions and publicity work and after that there will be dates in the diary about events and activities and all sorts of things…

But right now it’s all very quiet. It’s less than 4 months now till TBD is published and it feels very strange not to be rushing about like a headless chicken trying to help the book find an audience… but I see the reasoning about how important timing is. Apparently things need to happen 6-8 weeks in advance tops because otherwise there’s such a lot of time between getting people’s attention and the book actually being available to them that it’s largely wasted effort. After all, I’m a debut author. No one knows if they’ll like my work yet so drawing out any anticipation that can be raised is unlikely to be productive. I see that… but it’s so strange for everything to have gone quiet.

I may soon wish for a little bit of the quiet back though, so I’m trying not to wish it away. After all, there are two other books to fill it with…

For now… Happy New Year!

This enchantment of ice and crystal

frosted rose

In honour of last week’s Dragon-worthy frost, some photos that made me think of a particular scene from the book.

frosted fens

… the grass is so thickly frosted, every blade sharp-coated with ice…

frosted acer

The skeleton of the tree glows in the frozen night air as if displaying its soul to the heavens.

frosted acer leaves

The acer is a marvel of white over red.

frosted flowers

… diamond-flashes catch off the newly strange plants in the beds …

frosted seed pods

Now everything is shaded in grey and silver and white.

frosted ivy

Everything solid has turned to crystal.

 

leaves against the sun

The Next Big Thing

The lovely Katy Darby has just tagged me for the Next Big Thing meme: a questionnaire designed to get writers talking about their next book. Ideally, each writer tags five others but I seem to have a knack for tagging people who’ve done it and those who don’t have blogs. Go me!

Anyway, here’re my answers. (BTW, I’m cross-posting on both blogs because I ended up talking a lot about The Bone Dragon.)

 

What is the working title of your next book?

MoB. While I’m still drafting I only ever refer to a book by the initials of the working title. Sharing the title sets it in stone for me so, as it’s hard to be sure a title’s right until the book is done, I try to keep it to myself until I’m fairly confident I won’t have to change it.

I’m the type of writer who doesn’t like to share a work in progress; for me, a big part of the joy of being a writer, and not a performer, is that I can keep my work secret until I’m ready to hear what other people think. If I start sharing stuff too soon, I get caught up in other people’s ideas and start doubting my own. I need to have a draft that’s close enough to the book in my head that I can use feedback effectively before I go about inviting it by sharing information. So, MoB it is for now. And, no, it’s not about men in dark suits or aliens. Or mobsters. Or flash mob dance crews. I defy you to guess the title… But would love to see your best shot.

 

Where did the idea for the book come from?

In The Bone Dragon, I feel that I started a conversation about a series of themes that are really important to me as a writer. MoB is the continuation of that conversation, without being a sequel. The plot developed from the idea for the ‘hook’, which led me to a key moment in the climax. From there, I used the idea of continuing the conversation from The Bone Dragon to help me work out the story of how and why the ‘hook’ leads to the climax – and vice versa, since the story isn’t as linear as it seems. The fun bit is that this is the opposite of how The Bone Dragon works: TBD is completely linear, only it’s not clear that that’s the case until you’ve reached the very end of the book.

 

What genre does your book fall under?

Like The Bone Dragon, MoB is a YA psychological thriller that will hopefully appeal to anyone over 16.

 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s a really tough question for me. One of the weirder bits of being as dyslexic and dyspraxic as I am is that I find it hard to remember and, therefore, to recognise faces. When I’m having a ‘dyslexic day’ (anyone who is dyslexic will tell you that a person’s level of ‘dyslexic-ness’ shifts from day to day – it’s one of the key things about dyslexia that research has yet to explain), I even struggle to recognise close friends and members of my own family. Mostly I recognise people by their context, their voice and, critically, their hair. This has a huge impact on my aesthetic. I rarely take photos of people and, when I do, I only take ‘snaps’. I just don’t have any sort of an eye for faces in their entirety. This is probably why I feel very strongly about letting readers ‘see’ what they want when it comes to my characters. I tend to provide a bare minimum (and often not even that) in relation to physical descriptions of people.

The flip side is that my visual aesthetic is overwhelmingly taken up with settings and objects. I always give a huge amount of detail on these things because I ‘see’ these things with crystal clear focus – almost as a way of making up for the fuzziness of the people. I love taking photos of landscapes and plants. My best photos are to do with angle, texture and detail, and that’s true in my writing as well. That, in a nutshell, is my visual aesthetic.

The bottom-line here is that I’m not sure I *can* answer this question. I’m also not sure I want to. If I did, I wouldn’t give photos, rather I’d talk about what various actors could bring to the parts in terms of evoking the key emotional aspects of the characters. For instance, the main character needs to be thin (it’s important to the plot): she also needs to look like someone who has attractive features but is almost trying to make herself unattractive, so the actor couldn’t be straight-forwardly pretty. She needs to come across as bordering on sullen, but with a degree of vulnerability that indicates that this is more than just ‘teenage sulks’. At the same time, she can’t seem fragile: she’s prickly on the outside and angrily defensive on the inside… Which makes her sound so lovable. But, like in The Bone Dragon, it doesn’t really matter whether readers like the protagonist per se. They just have to identify with the emotions that fuel her behaviour.

 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

MoB is to a ghost story what The Bone Dragon is to a fantasy story about dragons. It starts with a girl in a blue coat vanishing into an autumn wood.

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Represented by my amazing, wonderful, fantastic, brilliant agent, Claire Wilson, at Rogers, Coleridge & White.

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It’s not finished yet but I hope to have the draft done by the end of January. I know exactly what’s going to happen every step of the way, so it’s just about finding the right ideas at the sentence level. I hope it won’t be a long edit: it feels like it won’t be, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking. I’ve only been working on the idea since about March-April so it’ll be my shortest idea-to-book conversion ever. But I’ve got a good feeling about it, like I had with The Bone Dragon, so hopefully…

 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh gawd. I always find these questions so hard. It seems so presumptuous to compare to my work to the books I dream about seeing mine sit beside. Um… I guess the best answer looks back to what I said earlier: MoB is the continuation of a conversation I started with The Bone Dragon. If really pushed, I guess MoB is The Go-Between meets The Lovely Bones. Sort of.

 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

When I first had the idea, I knew this was a book I wanted to write… but the inspiration that made it my most urgent project came from being signed by my wonderful agent, Claire. Out of all the books I wanted to write, this seemed the most natural progression from The Bone Dragon. I would love for Claire to enjoy the book and be excited to represent it. It’s the best way I can think of to say thank you for the first miraculous ‘yes’ that led to my finally being published…

… which, in turn, involved another critical ‘yes’. I absolutely love working with the team at Faber: it would be great to see if that relationship could continue and I think they might like MoB… but we’ll see.

 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The protagonist is 16 going on 17, so the book explores some territory that’s touched on in The Bone Dragon but remains between the lines. The same aesthetic principles apply in terms of how the darker subject matter is tackled, but the conversation goes further. The protagonist is at a different point in her life with different things at stake so I have a very different array of opportunities to explore what damage means for someone who is on the verge of a whole series of life-defining choices – about A-levels, university, romantic relationships, where she lives, how she lives, who she’s going to be as an adult… In MoB, impending adulthood means that the main character doesn’t have much time to ‘get her act together’ if she is going to avoid mucking up her future.

Those are the things about MoB that are most exciting for me, as the writer. For the reader, there’s a much more obvious mystery to be solved in MoB that will hopefully sustain the book in a more fluid way than in The Bone Dragon. But the answers to that mystery will (hopefully) lead readers somewhere they’re not expecting at all.

 

So… three guesses what MoB stands for. Go on. Give it a shot. It’s cold and dreary and dark. Laughing will make it better. (So will chocolate, but that’s your own affair.)

raindrops on plant fronds

Publicity Questionnaires for Authors

I have just had the most amazingly exciting book-related news… but I can’t share it quite yet. Soon, though… 🙂

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a quick post about publicity questionnaires as I whinged about how difficult they were last time but didn’t give any details.

Basically, a publicity questionnaire is what it says on the box – a questionnaire your publisher sends you to gather all the basic info they need for publicity purposes. Most of the questions revolve around whether you have any ideas, especially for local publicity, and whether you have any relevant experience. But what they really want to know is what you’re willing to do.

If you’re active on social media sites, they’ll want to know all your addresses. If you’re willing to tweet and Facebook and so forth, but don’t have accounts, then get them set up before you send in your questionnaire. But only do this if you’re willing to follow through. It’s best to be honest up front if you despise the very idea of being on Facebook.

The questionnaire will almost certainly require you to write a super-short summary of the book, a short bio and perhaps a paragraph about why you wrote the book.

Your publisher may also ask you to outline some of the key themes of the book and/or what aspects you think are likely to engage readers. It’s this last thing that I found really tricky. It’s hard to answer this question in relation to a thriller without giving too much away! In the end, Claire (my wonderful, wonderful agent) suggested that some single words would probably be the best approach for The Bone Dragon, so we sat down and brainstormed. In the end, I chose the words/phrases ‘wishfulfilment’, ‘resilience’, ‘pain’, ‘finding love’ and ‘friendship’. There were some other words on the list that are even more important, but I didn’t want to reveal too much… Laura, my fantastic publisist at Faber, will tell me if I’ve ended up not revealing enough.

The other thing to think about is how much you’re willing to share about your personal life. It is enormously important to be very clear about this in your own mind before you start engaging with the media. Make the decision in advance, and then be polite but extremely firm about it. Be aware that most reporters will try to push – that’s their job after all. But don’t feel you’re being disobliging or ungracious if you politely but firmly steer the conversation away from anything you have decided should remain private. That’s OK. And it’ll be totally par for the course from the reporter’s point of view. Just be nice about it and offer the reporter something else that is story-worthy instead. You do owe them that for their time, but you don’t owe them an insight into every aspect of your life.

On the other hand, be aware that if you engage with the media you need to be willing to share some insight into your personal life. At the very least you’ll need to talk about your hobbies and interests, so think about some good stories in those areas. It’s also good to have a few stories about family and friends in reserve. Just be wary of identifying exactly who the other people in the story are (either by name or other key details), unless the story is completely positive. Try to avoid stories that other people would find embarrassing, but feel free to humilate yourself… up to a point, of course!

So, those are my thoughts… but if anyone has any tips they’d be most welcome!

Rosehips

ARCs, author’s notes and further research

The thing I’m learning about getting published is that it’s either dead-quiet or manic. There’s not much in-between.

This week the Advanced Review Copies are being printed. Apparently these are taken from the first set of corrected proofs, so I still have second proof queries to look at pre-Christmas. In the meantime, I’ve been asked to write a note for the bound proofs and am finding it surprisingly difficult. This is partly because there’s already an author’s note at the end of the book and I’m not entirely clear what I should say that’s different at the front. But I’ve had a go and produced two very different versions. One is a chatty, direct-to-the-reader thank you, plus potted history of the book. The other is a more formal bio-note.

The note at the end, by contrast, includes an aside about how knowing the common and Latin names of a particular plant changes the meaning of a key scene, some hints at how I came to write the book, and many, many thank yous. Never stint on the thank yous. A long list is something you should want to share because it demonstrates how generous people – including complete strangers – often are with their time and support when you say you’re writing a book. I’ve been very, very lucky, but I expect other writers are too. We need to flag this up as a happy reminder of how nice people are. Many are very willing to pause in their busy lives to help a writer, even though much of this kindness languishes in unpublished manuscripts or dusty, dog-earred notes. If you do get published, this gives you a chance to say how much you appreciated the kindness: make sure you take it. Readers shouldn’t be bored by thank yous. They’re the equivalent of the missing ‘happy stories’ on the news: evidence of people being good to each other.

The other thing I’m working on this week is filling out Faber’s publicity questionnaire. This is another thing I’m finding surprisingly difficult. But I’ll just have to give it my best shot and then ask the wonderful Laura from Faber’s publicity team to put me right if I’m wrong!

Finally, even though the book is now done and dusted, when given an opportunity to do some new research, I jumped at it. In the final stages of editing the book, I had to tweak the timeline of Evie’s adoption. I was fairly confident after the work, but regretted not having the time to do a little more research to be absolutely sure. So it was great to have an opportunty this weekend to chat to the most lovely, amazing foster parents about their experiences, how long various things take, and what the different stages in the process are. The book doesn’t deal with the detail of the adoption process – the necessary training and courses, the various stages of meetings and panels, and so forth – but it’s good to cement my understanding about these things so, if anyone asks, I can explain why I haven’t discussed certain things. I wouldn’t change anything in the book after this new research even if I could, but that’s why it was so useful: I’m now much more confident in what I’ve written and the choices I’ve made.

So, next steps… more thinking about publicity. I’m really looking forward to the one-to-one aspects of that: a professional excuse to spend LOADS of time talking to people, in person and online, about books and writing. It’s going to be such a hardship. <g>

Raindrops on roses

My favourite things: TBD has a new cover…

… Only it’s still a secret. Sorry about that. I know it was a little sneaky.

But I’m so excited about the cover I just have to write something about it, even though it is going to be very vague.

I’m not sure when the reveal will be but probably around Christmas/New Year. The wait will be well worth it. The cover is absolutely stunning. THE perfect cover. I opened the file and the design just clicked. “Ah!” I thought. “So this is what the book is supposed to look like!”

So what can I say about the new cover? Well, it’s clever, fun and full of secrets.

And completely different to the ‘old’ cover. Which I did really like too. The concept was something I’d thought from the start that Faber might pick and I loved the fact that it was a good ‘cross-over’ concept in that it didn’t appeal specifically to the YA market. But, for me, it was a bit weird to see the bone carving in such detail and so prominent. I quite like the idea of the reader being left to imagine that for him/herself.

The new cover… Well, it’s not that it doesn’t feature the ‘bone dragon’ of the title but it’s not that it exactly does either… Very helpful, I know. (Well, I never said I didn’t enjoy being a tease. :P)

In other news… Advance Review Copies (ARCs), as I now know they’re called, will be printed soon, so the proofs are nearly complete. No update on where we’re going with the breaking words over the line/text justification issue yet, but it is something we’re working on. Or rather my wonderful Project Editor is working on it. It was a very liberal use of the word ‘we’, there. But then I am being sneaky here… Might as well go the whole hog and be sneaky AND plural while I’m about it.

Whilte tulip stamen and petals close up

100% Proofs

So, it’s September 18th (we’re only a few weeks behind ourselves now) and I am working on the proofs, also called page-proofs. Basically, this is the bit where the author is given a print out (almost everyone works in hardcopy at this stage) of the manuscript all formatted for the printing of the book. So there are page guides at the edges of the pages since the book printing won’t be in A4.

The proofs for TBD are gorgeous. Completely gorgeous. I spent quite a while stroking the first page (my preciousssss, oh my preciousssss…) and wondering at the fact that my words were on that page. All over it. And the next page. And the page after that. And yet this was clearly a real book in the making. It was very weird. But very wonderful too. I think all writers should be allowed a ‘My Precious!’ moment when their proofs arrive. But then it’s on with the work…

The author’s job is to go through and check for errors, be they grammar or punctuation errors or formatting errors. There are often some of those, especially if the original manuscript is in Word. When working on the EHRR, Word to PDF conversion would regularly format random paragraphs into a different font size or font style, create large gaps in the text and/or repeat lines.

Actually, there was almost none of that with my proofs so I was even more impressed by how Faber is able to wrestle Word into submission. The one spanner Word threw into the works involved turning some of my long dashes into superscript ~ signs. Go figure. But there is always SOMETHING like this with Word. It’s inescapable.

All of that is pretty easy. The one thing that’s difficult for a writer is that you must try not to edit for content. At all. The only exceptions should be when you realise something doesn’t make sense. This should be at the sentence or phrase level only. There were a few things like that in the TBD proofs. At one point, someone was standing upright but hunched over. Pretty clever of them, really. There were also a few instances where the pagination meant that the way I’d chosen to punctuate something didn’t work. Sentence fragments often read fine when they’re on the same line on the same page, but they don’t necessarily do the trick when you have to turn the page in between ‘bits’. I also made a handful of cuts – single sentences or phrases – that didn’t make sense and that were more easily deleted than corrected.

Anyway, the key here is that this is not the time to edit for content. If you find a better way of saying something that does actually make sense, then you’re too late. The only content things you should change are things that just don’t work. And they should only be little, occasional things. If you’ve got more than one every 20-25 pages on average, then you’re in trouble. Or at least that’s the rule I applied.

There are official ‘mark up’ symbols for making corrections, but publishers don’t expect you to use them. Just be clear and clean with your corrections. And keep them to a minimum. But do use a pen, rather than a pencil.

Anyway, I was a good little author and tried to make as few corrections as possible as the manuscript was in great shape.

But I did have one query item to discuss… One of the things I really like about the proofs is that they conform to a lot of key accessibility principles. The lines aren’t wide. There’s lots of white space on the page. The font is a good size. While the text is justified (ragged right margins are generally better for readability), it doesn’t stretch and concertina, so it’s a fairly accessibility-friendly justification.

While there are some sentences in italics, there isn’t a good alternative for this as bold just looks odd and changing the font isn’t accessibility friendly anyway… At the end of the day, there aren’t a lot of italics so it’s not a major issue… at least not compared with the key things about font size and white space.

There was just one thing that I found a little tricky as a dyslexic-dyspraxic reader: there are quite a lot of words that are hyphenated over the end of lines. I find it really hard to reassemble words than ‘run over’ from one line to another.

So my query was about whether we could reduce the number of these and/or whether we could change where the ‘breaks’ happened.

Obviously, the fewer of these the better, but why the point about ‘breaking at the root’? It’s much easier for ALL readers, not just ones with special needs, to reassemble a word broken at the root, like ‘desper- [new line] ation’ as opposed to ‘de- [new line] speration’. That said, it’s critical for many readers with special needs to have these linguistic cues. For instance, it took me about 5 minutes (even though I *wrote* the book) to figure out what was meant by ‘grey-or [new line] ange’. Similarly, I spent a good two minutes staring at ‘at- [new line] tention’ before I managed to figure it out.

For dyslexics and dyspraxics it’s hard enough to get the bits of words in the right order without having the full word to work with. For visually impaired readers, and those working with screenreaders and other accessibility technologies, it’s hard work to fit two word ‘bits’ together into a whole word when you can’t work on recognising the word as a whole. It’s not impossible, of course, but who wants time-consuming hard work to figure out what a word is when you’re trying to enjoy a story? It doesn’t make for the best reading experience.

As a former professional researcher in the field of dyslexia studies, not to mention both dyslexic and dyspraxic myself, I try to bring general accessibility good practice into my work whenever possible. For instance, when I was appointed Executive Editor of the EHRR, I re-designed the website, writing the code by hand as, while html generators are getting much better, they still have a nasty tendency to use tables, blank spaces and blank graphics to fudge layout issues: all of these are terrible from an accessibility perspective. (The Moodle virtual learning environment is a fantastic exception, BTW, and generally produces code that adheres to accessibility principles.) Anyway, the point with regard to the journal was that, as a human rights journal, we needed to have an accessible website.

That said, it’s hard to follow every good practice principle – at least to the letter – and come up with something that is both effective and beautiful. It’s OK to compromise on some things if you’ve taken the time to think through what is most important and then made a concerted effort to do the best you can.

So what about the proofs? The issue for me is that they’re beautiful. Really, really beautiful. I couldn’t be happier with how the book looks. And the page-setting is really great from an accessibility perspective… with this one small exception where I think the balance needs to shift just a little. So I’m hoping we can reduce the number of broken words without altering the look of the book and also make sure that the remaining broken words split at the root. I’m not sure what will be possible, which is why I’ve put forward a query rather than a series of corrections, but at the very least we’ll have given serious thought to making sure that the book is accessible and beautiful.

At the end of the day, it’s about priorities. Lots of white space and short lines are much more important than the odd sentence in italics. And the odd split word, if split at the root, won’t be an issue. We’ve just got to strike the best balance possible. And the first step is to be aware, so we’re already headed in the right direction.

Has anyone had any negative experiences of reading to do with layout or formatting? Has anyone with children with special needs come across things like broken words that make reading so much harder than it needs to be?

multi-coloured plant leaves and shoots

Copy-editing 101 for Authors

Just realised I gave a lot of detail about the copy-editing process, but not much about the big picture. So…

Copy-editing means slightly different things to different people. However, as a rule, it includes both proof-reading (checking for grammar and punctuation errors, logical inconsistencies and awkward/ambiguous phrasing) and formatting using a house style (i.e. a document specifying how different things should be formatted and how ambiguous grammar issues should be dealt with) or an established style (e.g. Harvard referencing, AMA, etc.).

Most publishers have their own house style, which will be broadly in line with one of the major styles of formatting, especially as regards referencing (if this applies).

So, Faber prefers ‘Sonny Rawlins’s pen’ rather than ‘Sonny Rawlins’ pen.’ Also, Faber would prefer ‘it twitched and twisted as if she was trying to be funny’ rather than the traditional rendering of the conditional subjunctive ‘it twitched and twisted as if she were trying to be funny’ (I have a strong preference for the latter so we went with that in the end). Some of the hyphen issues I mentioned before may also be partly house style issues, though it looks to me that it’s a strict adherence to the Oxford English Dictionary rules (the industry standard) for the most part.

Basically, the copy-editor smoothes and tidies in terms of grammar, punctuation, formatting AND content. It’s a pretty tall order.

The tricky bit is how much a copy-editor should comment on content. While I do the odd little bit of copy-editing (if a client asks me to format a reference list or make sure an article is broadly inline with a journal’s house style), most of my work involves more in-depth editing… So it’s expected that I’ll delve into the content quite a bit. But, to be fair, I find it hard not to anyway.

My take on editing of any sort is that if you tell clients and students everything you think could change, then they can examine the possibilities… all the possibilities. All the ways things could be different. Of course, they’ll accept some changes and reject others, but they’ll have had the opportunity to double-check more of the decisions that went into the writing of their work. And I think that’s always a good thing. A comment challenges the way you’ve done something. It makes you think again about whether it is the best way. And why it’s the best way. And that may help you improve other elements of the book or article or whatever the document is.

One of the things that really impressed me about Eleanor was what a light touch she had with her copy-editing. She picked up a lot of little things… but she was very respectful of the book and seemed to have a strong sense of my aesthetic and when I’d make an unusual choice that was entirely intentional. Punctuation is a good thing to look at here because there are rules, but they’re not as rigid as people sometimes think, especially in fiction. For instance, in fiction, it’s fair enough to have sentence fragments.

Amy’s voice. Soft and warm, like the blankets, like the bed.

Amy, not Fiona.

A sigh. My own. The air is hot and sharp with the smell of chemicals.

This could be punctuated in various ways. There are things that can’t and won’t work – though students often think that in fiction you can break all the rules of punctuation, rather than just bending some of them – but there are also plenty of acceptable options.

Before the copy-editing process started, I was worried that my copy-editor would want to change some of these things to other, acceptable options… But Eleanor didn’t touch anything that fell into this category. And I really appreciated that.

Ideally, the copy-editing process should involve dialogue between the copy-editor and author, plenty of compromise and some negotiation. If there’s a rule about something, and there isn’t an acceptable alternative, then don’t fight a change to uphold the rule. If the copy-editor thinks you haven’t been clear, maybe you really haven’t. But just occasionally there will be something you don’t agree on that you think is important, and then you just have to say ‘Please can we keep it as is.’ If you’ve not been difficult, and if there isn’t a true error at stake, it shouldn’t be a problem.

On the whole, though, I’d assume that most comments merit a change, even if it’s not exactly what the copy-editor is suggesting. Maybe she has spotted an error, but the correction just doesn’t sound right to you. So correct the error in a different way. But do correct it.

And there you go. My take on ‘Copy-editing 101 for Authors’.

How about you? Have your experiences been similar or have you had the bad luck to have a heavy-handed copy-editor?