Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The book inches ever closer


I just e-mailed the electronic "typescript" files of my manuscript back to the copy-editors, having spent most of January going through it line by line and either excepting or rejecting their changes, or just rewriting the damn sentence from scratch (the latter happened a couple of times). Generally I think I'm a fine writer, but apparently I don't know my "thats" from my "whiches" and I abuse commas and scare quotes. Oh, and I use "like" when I should use "such as," though sometimes I really meant "like" -- I think my editor got used to correcting most of them and automatically over-corrected ones that didn't need it. But man, medieval subjects throw the copy-editors off. My subject includes texts with generic names as character names -- similar to referring to the Wife of Bath as simply the Wife, for instance, only this wasn't about her specifically -- and my editor made them all lowercase! Ack! About halfway through she realized that these were indeed character names and stopped. And one time, I wrote something along the lines of "this story was also popular in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Persian romance" (I'm making up the "Persian romance" part for the purposes of this illustration) and she changed it to "French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Persian romance." Now why would she do that? Those sentences say two different things! And her version makes it sound like the whole list of languages modifies "romance," which it shouldn't. Moreover, how does she know the texts I'm talking about aren't in Latin?

But, whatever. Those kinds of mistakes, though tedious, were easy to fix with a "stet" or, if there were some changes that were OK, going back in and changing it myself. That's the beauty of the electronic file -- "Track Changes" kept track of who changed what without having to sqeeze things in between lines. And more often than not, even if she changed a sentence in a way that changed the meaning, it was a sentence that needed rewriting anyway.

My experience definitely wasn't as stressful as Anne of Fernham's experience, and both of our books were edited by the same Indian company hired by the same publisher. Perhaps I got lucky, or maybe my series gets the sharper editors simply because the medieval stuff is tricky. I don't know, but keep your fingers crossed that they know what to do with the special characters, and that my "yoghs" actually look like yoghs and not the 3's I put in as placeholders!


What Now? said...

Congrats -- this is a big milestone in the process!

Karl Steel said...

Excellent! Run a few extra laps--or don't--as celebration: whatever you runners do.

"this story was also popular in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Persian romance"

Hmmm. How about: "...and in Persian romance."

Per: that v. which. I was just thinking about that this morning. I used to be really strict about that v. which with my students (in almost all cases: that for restrictive clauses, which for non-restrictive clauses) until one of my friends, drawing on some fancy grammar book and probably alt.english.usage (?), pointed out just how arbitrary my distinction was. I realized I leaned on some rules heavily to make up for my lack of confidence, or skill, or what have you, in my own prose: if I couldn't write well (or remember lay v. lie), I could at least keep them on their toes with that v. which. I've backed off that now--which is either a sign of confidence or laziness--although I'm still pretty strict about in my own prose, such as it is.

BTW, if you haven't seen Chaucer's medieval quiz, have a look. It's here. I didn't, er, do as well as I would have liked.

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks to you both!

And Karl, I think in the original it *does* say "...and in Persian romance." That's just a blog typo. But the point is, "French" and "France" are two very different things, ne c'est pas? :)

And yes, which and that are much more fluid in OE, I believe, which threw off some of my stickler grammar-maven grad students, who also use such distinctions to prop their fragile confidence up. And, in fact, I think my copy-editor misread some of my sentences where I used "which" and meant "which." That said, sometimes I used "which" when a "that" was called for. (Most people err towards using "that." Apparently I am not most people.)

As for the quiz -- lordy, I *failed* it. 46%. I didn't even *recognize* some of the questions and answers. But then it seemed rather heavy on philosophical and theological stuff, which definitely is *not* my strong suit.

Oaktown Girl said...

Edited in India? Damn, I get so depressed over all this outsourcing. And not just because it has negatively impacted me personally. God, I love being a working adult in the USA after 30-40 years of the War on Labor.

Anyway, so glad your book is going well, and that the editing hasn't been a total nightmare. Not being a writer, I wasn't even aware of the strick rules between "that" and "which", but even I know the diff between "France" and "French". Hey - that almost rhymes.

Dr. V - I now have your blog here in a "tabs" folder labled "WAAGNFNP Friends"! (By the way, WAAGNFNP-related email coming soon).

Karl Steel said...

But then it seemed rather heavy on philosophical and theological stuff, which definitely is *not* my strong suit.

Not that we have time, but it would be interesting for various medievalists working in English departments to come up with their own quizzes. I think we'd all think what we knew was foundational while completely mystifying most of our comrades.

medieval woman said...

Congrats on the manuscript moving toward edited completion!

The yogh is the bane of my existence - I have Junius font on my computer so my yoghs always look nice; but I've been shocked by what editors come up with when they're trying to find something to replace my Junius yoghs with! A cyrillic letter??