Friday, July 24, 2009

The problem with copy editing

I have a love/hate relationship with the process of copy editing.

My organized, attention-to-detail self loves it.

But my other self (whatever that is) hates it.

The reason I sometimes hate it is because it makes me obsess about small stuff until I'm so mired down in the trees I can't see the forest.

I remember working on copy edits for Taking Care of Moses and getting all tangled up and agonizing over whether a character skipped up the sidewalk or down the sidewalk.

And wording that sounded so right and natural when it came flowing out of my brain makes me scratch my head and go "huh?" when I read it for the 50th time.

Here's a good example of stupid over-obsessing (can you over obsess or does obsess imply over obsess? Where's my copyeditor? Or is it copy editor?):

Because he knew Viola was right about the staples. And he knew she didn't mean staples like the little ones for paper. She meant those heavy-duty kind like his father used to staple plastic over the windows in the winter at their old house on Tupelo Road.

Now, the copy editor is suggesting: "She meant that heavy-duty kind like his father used...."

And I think that is technically right.

But it just doesn't sound right to me - because that is not the way I would say it - even though I would probably say it wrong.....

.....I don't know.....

And then today I'm obsessing over:

He reached in and scooped Tooley up.


He reached in and scooped up Tooley.

I think I need to stop.

I know, I know......

I always feel like my first version is the "purest" and I should go with it - and then I go and over analyze everything.

(And don't go telling me you can't end a sentence with a preposition cause I don't follow no stinkin' grammar rules....)


Sarah Miller said...

Not that you were asking for opinions, but I vote for "those" and "scooped Tooley up."

Barbara O'Connor said...

Great minds think alike.....

Anonymous said...

Since you are a master of "voice", I think you are perfectly in line to trust it. JAZ

Om Mama said...

Oh my goodness!! This is the kind of obsessing that often keeps me from writing... I get hung up early on with the "thats vrs. thoses" and give up!! I almost didn't even start my blog because of such obsessing. Then I just decided that I have some thing I want to say, and without a copy editor, I'll just have to do my best and chill out about it.

Thanks for sharing!
ps: I agree with Sarah as well! (or should that be, I also agree with Sarah?)