Some Thoughts on Turning in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai
Last night I passed one of the major milestones for Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. I turned in the copy edits for the book to DAW. For those who aren’t aware, copy edits are one of the final steps in the editing process. After initial drafts are turned in and structural edits have been worked into the ms (an edit/draft cycle that may take several passes), the editor will eventually consider it ready for copy edits. At this point the copy editor is not looking for major changes (though they’d bring it up if there were), but rather a host of smaller issues. Spelling, grammar, punctuation is part of it, and while that’s essential, that’s probably the least important aspect of what a copy editor does.
Where a copy editor really shines is in the disciplines that go beyond simple, line-level editing. They look for the flow of the read, which is something that’s developed and honed over the course of years. As an example, I had a lot of short, choppy sentences at times of high action or stress. The copy editor recommended that I relax that tendency. She wasn’t excising the practice completely from the ms. The technique is effective in small doses, but like so much in fiction, when a writer does it too much, the reader can become numb to it, or worse, they start to notice the writing instead of simply enjoying the read.
Finding continuity errors is another big goal for the copy editor—finding those places where a character’s appearance is described one way, then differently somewhere else. Or where someone was holding a sword on one page and a knife on the next. Or when a moon casts a silver light one night and a pale blue on the next. These may seem like idiotic oversights on the part of the writer, and in some ways, yes, they are, but you have to keep in mind that a book is often written over the course of many months. Things change in the writing. Some initial concept doesn’t feel right later on. The main character approached an enemy with a sword in one scene, but when reviewed later, it seemed silly to be crawling over rooftops with a sword in hand, so it was changed to a knife, but oops, you missed one occurrence because it was called a blade in one paragraph instead of a sword. Or for aesthetic reasons, you change the moon from blue to silver, and later you miss the one place you called it cerulean. Things like that happen over and over again in the writing of a novel, and it’s damned near impossible to catch them all. Which is reason #9,481 that good copy editors are worth their weight in gold.
Another place where a copy editor really shines is in placing themselves in the shoes of the reader. A really good copy editor will be able to tell when a reader will be confused, and they’ll call it out. They have an innate sense of when the author has written something that’s simply too convenient, or is being too coy with information, which will confuse readers, or is explaining too much, which will bore readers. There are so many disciplines in writing that I liken to walking a tightrope. Lean too far one way, and you’ll tip over; lean too far the other way, and the same thing happens. Doling out information integral to the plot is one example. Give the reader too little, and they’re confused and frustrated; give them too much and they yawn, wondering when the chapter will end so they can put the book down. But get it just right, and the pages fly by.
I’ll tell you something else about copy editors. The good ones won’t try to change the writer you are. They’ll sense the framework you’ve clearly set for the book—the tone, the style—and will work within it. They want to make the story more of what it already is, not something different.
It took me a little over a week (9 days) to fold all the copy edits in, maybe 32 hours of work in total, and I’m pleased to say that the story feels good. It feels solid and policed and ready for market. I’m so glad to finally be at this stage of the process. I can’t wait to see how people react to the book. Initial indications have been strongly positive, but you won’t really know until the book hits the market and you see what sort of buzz it builds (or doesn’t).
So what’s next? ARCs are going to be created and sent out over the next few months (some sooner, some later). We’ll also have review copies closer to the publication date in September. On my plate, I’m helping to work on the cover copy, which is one of those skills that is useful to have as a writer, but is really difficult to master. Boiling a 600-page book down to a few paragraphs is hard. But I’m glad to be involved and to help in any way I can.
Once we have the ARCs, a proofreader will tackled the ms, and then I’ll do a final review of the proofreader’s comments and give the entire novel one last read before we consider it final. Then the book is typeset from that final version and the books are printed (which will happen roughly in the July timeframe). The final cover design for both the ebook and print versions is already in progress, but that will get finalized in late spring or early summer. And then we’re gearing up for the release in September.
It’s going to be a fun ride. I’m antsy to get it out, but there’s a lot of work ahead still. I’ll be kept busy, and before I know it the book will be out on shelves.
I’m looking forward to diving in to Book 2. I’ve already got about 60k words written, but a lot of it needs serious re-work. I’ll throw some of it out as well. I have a few short stories to finalize, and my second short story collection to work on as well, but by and large, the next 9 months are going to be all about Book 2.
Wish me luck!