Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Those nail biting copy-editing days.

I've just sent my ebook about Ecuador to the copy editor.

It's nail-biting, isn't it, that moment of pressing 'send' and knowing someone is going to take a toothcomb to your efforts. If it's truly dreadful, I want to know - of course I do. I don't want to publish something that will make the reader decide that chewing his/her own arm off is preferable to reading this twaddle.

Travel writing brings its own challenges. Print books can include photographs. But I haven't found a way to incorporate pictures into ebooks and still keep the price down. Which has been a particular challenge with this book. I mean, how do you find the words for this:




Or this:




So I need to know if the word-pictures I've painted do justice to some of the things I've seen. Some I can enhance by talking about smells (the mud and dust of the jungle) or sounds (the cry of the frigate birds), or just the feeling of amazement at being there (swimming with sea lion pups). I need my copy editor tell me if I've failed to capture all that.

Most of all I want him to be thorough. If there are clunky sentences, or I've not made sense, then it needs dealing with. If it comes back with pages of tracked changes, well, fine - that's what I've asked for.

I'm a grown up. The copy editor is looking at my writing. If this writing isn't good enough, it just means it's not good enough. It doesn't say anything about me as a woman.

And yet ... and yet ... Sometimes it still feels like I'm back at school at waiting for an essay to come back, hoping for a good mark at the end and half expecting pages of red pen. The ubiquitous 'could do better'. Or even 'See Me' - oh the stomach-churning of 'See Me', even when it's done kindly.

Kindness was rare and precious when I was a school. Which is probably why I'm biting my nails a bit now. But - having said all that - I'm working with someone I trust. And that, when it comes down to it, is what we all need from our copy editors. We need them to be able to tell it like it is without massaging our childish feelings.

We are, after all, grown ups. And sometimes we all write rubbish!

If you want to read more about my travels (and not all of it is twaddle!) you can find links on my website: http://jocarroll.co.uk

4 comments:

Susan Price said...

Beautiful photos, Jo. Do you publish paperbacks with CreateSpace? You could add your photos to a C/S book easily.

Lydia Bennet said...

It's always hard to have your work inspected but then readers will be doing it, we hope! And we all make mistakes, typos, widows etc. It does seem as if some photos should be part of your book, so I hope you will find a way to use them.

Ann Turnbull said...

The photos are lovely, but I recently read your book about your return to Nepal, which had no photos, and I gained a vivid impression of the places you visited and the way you felt about them from your descriptions of the country and people. And this was a book you said you had written in haste - so I don't think you need feel anxious about the quality of your writing.

I remember, some years ago, listening to an episode of "Fat Man on a Bicycle" (can't remember who the author was) on Radio 4. He was travelling through Italy, and it was a joy to listen to his words, without any need of photos.

JO said...

Ann - many thanks for the encouragement - and I'm especially glad you enjoyed the Nepal book as the money goes towards rebuilding the country.

Susan - I don't use CreateSpace for the short travel books, as the cost of producing a print book fo something only 25000 words long makes it uneconomic. But I have put three short books together into a print book, though it didn't sell well as most people seem to have them on e-readers.

Lydia - I know we all make mistakes, and that's why we use copy editors. It's an essential part of the process - it's just this bit between sending it off and waiting for it to come back that makes me feel like I'm back at school