12 May: I receive an email from Editor Reka letting me know that my copyedited manuscript is on the way. I’ll have till 31 May to respond to the changes. Heck, that’s ages from now. No problem! I spend the rest of the afternoon Googling “copyeditor’s marks” and sharpening my stetting pencil.
15 May: Still no sign of the manuscript. But that’s okay. I don’t anticipate too much in the way of changes. I took four years of Latin – I’m a grammar nerd to the bone. I skipped through my single set of revisions tickety-boo. Copyedits? No problem!
18 May: Still no manuscript. Clock’s a-ticking. I tinker with my historical note. I have a glass of wine.
20 May: 3:15 pm: The manuscript arrives. I tear open the envelope and flip to the first page. It’s like a monarch slit his wrists over it – the margins are crammed top to bottom with the copyeditor’s comments written neatly in blue pencil. Same with page two. And three. And. . . uh oh.
3:34 pm: I’ve spent the last twenty minutes flipping crazily through 272 pages of text that have more blue marks on them than black and very quickly realizing that my copyeditor has taken me to school. I’m horrified that another human being found this many potential changes in something I thought was really quite good. And I have to respond to every single comment in some way, even if it’s to say “okay.” Then I realize I have eleven days to turn this around. Oh wait, make that nine. I still need to mail the manuscript back.
3:36 pm: I am drinking another glass of wine.
3:50 pm: I have a plan. I am more than slightly buzzed. I have nine days to make these changes. Counting today, and it’s 3:50. That’s only mumblety-mumblety-math-goes-here 30 pages per day! Counting today. Hey, no problem!
23 May: I’m finding myself in the interesting position of having to defend words. Now my inner history geek is fighting it out with my panicky writer geek, and I’m running words through the Oxford English Dictionary, trying very hard not to get sidetracked by the general awesomeness of the Oxford English Dictionary or write out etymologies in the margins. This means I’m still on page 26. No problem no problem no problem!
25 May: I am working twenty-hour days between the Day Job, taking care of Chez J and running through the copyedits. I have barely broken 100 pages. I run on willfulness, adrenaline and black coffee. I dream in blue pencil. I vow to never to even mention my single round of revisions again or use the phrase “tickety-boo.” The writing gods will not be mocked.
26 May: Reprieved! Editor Reka says I can return the manuscript on the 31st rather than having it be due back in her hands on that day. I resist the urge to spend the bulk of my advance on daily gifts of chocolate and Bushmills.
27 May: I finish my first pass. All the easy changes have been made. Now all I have to do is go back through and address all the difficult, gnarly changes I skipped until later. Now it’s later. Now we have problems.
30 May: I lose half a day when the upstairs toilet overflows, but as the incomparable Jeannie Mobley says, some deliveries can’t be postponed.
31 May: The copyedits are done. I’m strung out, exhausted and wild-eyed. I can’t think about the color blue without twitching. I try to find a padded envelope. I’m out. I start swearing like a dockworker in ominous monotone. My husband rushes out and buys me one. Out goes the manuscript, and I make obeisances to the writing gods. In return for their favor, I offer these tips to you, that you may benefit from my pain should you ever find yourself knee-deep in copyedits:
* Read this. (Heck, read it twice.)
* Have a glass of wine.
* Remind yourself that you don’t suck, and your book will be that much better when you’re done.
* Then read this.
* Then, if you were given no other instructions on what the heck to do with the manuscript, keep this page handy. It’ll get you through most of the marks okay.
Thus ends our homily. Go in peace.