There are several times during the publishing process when one is tempted to lose all sense of proportion, heave everything out the window, and go be a plumber instead. (Or a stock-car driver. Or a rubbish collector. Anything other than a wordmonkey.) The one I’m currently in now is copyedits.
Copyeditors are those brave souls who descend upon one’s manuscript and pick through it with a fine-tooth comb. Punctuation. Grammar. Internal consistency. Formatting. Everything. As you might guess, these people are quiet heroes. I can tell you that if I had to copyedit, I would quickly reach the point of flinging myself off a bridge. It takes a keen eye and a lot of patience.
Getting copyedits back is like failing a test. The sheer amount of markup even on a light copyedit (i.e., a manuscript that didn’t need “much” in the way of corrections) is stunning the way an iron club to the head is stunning. Queries in the margins need to be stetted (“stet” means “let it stand”; “STET GODDAMMIT” means “the writer is a cranky little panda right now and should probably be asleep instead of crouched over this goddamn manuscript, unwashed and hungry, at 3AM.” I’ll let you figure out what “STET MOTHERFUCKER STET” means.) or answered; decisions need to be made, things need to be cross-checked and made consistent. Every single glaring writerly flaw one possesses is highlighted, in neon. Ten feet tall.
It’s amazing a writer has any ego left after this sort of thing. But I suppose a writer’s ego is like a Weeble. Or like cockroaches. Gas ’em, dust ’em, smash ’em, but they just keep coming back. Maybe it’s because being addicted to the sweet crack of wordslinging insulates us. Or because we’re stupid-crazy.
Guess which one my money’s on?
So yeah. Sense of proportion: gone. Sanity: never much to begin with. More coffee: brewing. Copyedits: Going down.
Over and out.