Girls Write Out
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ah, my smugness has come to an end. I've been blessed with phenomenal editors and copyeditors. I have commiserated with other authors who had the edit from hell and have thanked God I have such great editors. But you know, the publishers hire outside copyeditors. Even Thomas Nelson does this. On Friday I had a sweet note from fabo editor Ami McConnell (she's a finalist for ACFW's Editor of the Year this year, BTW!) asking me to take a quick peek at some small issues left to fix before The Lightkeeper's Daughter went to print. Smiling, I opened the file. And began to read.

Can I just say I had my first copyeditor meltdown? I could click Accept All Changes when Erin Healy edits. I expected the same this time, but what I got was, well, very different. I'm sure this copyeditor thought she was helping me out. Changing some of those nasty saids, murmureds or whispereds to something more creative could only be good, right? Wrong. The first thing we learn as beginning writers is to NOT be creative with speaker attributes. The reader reads right over said or whispered or murmured with no problem. Said is the most innocuous but the others are okay too because they are how people actually talk. What is NOT okay are things like SHE PURRED. Or SHE GROANED, SHE SIGHED, SHE LAUGHED, SHE ARGUED. In other words you don't write, "Oh no you don't," Addie laughed. You could write "Oh no you don't," Addie said with a laugh. But laugh is not describing speech. When you do the weird attributes, that is writing that is TELLING not showing.

So I promptly fainted. When I came to, I discovered more horrors. She'd added adverbs. Now we writers know that adverbs are nasty creatures you use only when absolutely necessary. You don't EVER write JOHN SAID SADLY. Or HE SAID CENSORIOUSLY. Yet that was what I found in my manuscript. But the horrors mounted. SHE ADDED SEMICOLONS!! I nearly didn't survive that one. I dislike semicolons in my fiction. Some authors use them and love them. I'm not knocking those who do. But they are not for me and my fast paced fiction. I had to fan myself right away. She also inserted THAT where it wasn't needed and way too many commas but those were minor. I'm sooo thankful my editor wanted me to take a final look. If that had come to me in galleys, I might not have survived it.

Luckily, I've never before raised a ruckus at my house so when I had my meltdown, Natalie and Ami immediately believed me and apologized. Not that it was their fault. But I knew they trusted and believed me which went a long way to making me feel better. :-)

So now I know what it's like to have a bad copyedit. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? That's what I hear anyway. And it gave me a chance to reread the manuscript and realize all over again I still really like it. So it's all good!


Whew, got that off my chest. Do you have any pet peeves you see in books? Nothing WE do of course. We quite understand that. :-) So let's hear it!

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 6:00 AM  
  Comments (28)
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At 7:15 AM, Blogger Tonya Kappes said...

I am so sorry about slight heart attack. It sounds like you went through a LOT! It is funny b/c I am sooooo aware of all the 'that', 'just', 'said' when I look over my MS. I always seem to get them on sale and sprinkle over top my work-LOL!!

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

We all have pet words, Tonya! I guess mine is gaze. LOL So I'm being extra cautious with it. I think I'm going to get one of those programs that count overused words. That might be helpful!

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Valerie said...

Hopefully, she didn't change the plurals to possesives. The manic misuse of the apostrophe drives me nuts! (or nut's as you would see it written today...)

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

You poor thing! At least it's over. :-)

Pet Peeve: Page-long paragraphs. Long live dialogue!

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Oh you hit my hot button too, Valerie! I hate to see it's and its misused.

Good point, D! I hate long paragraphs too.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne said...

I read a book this week that irritated me. It wasn't the writing, it was the picture on the cover. The book made a point to mention (several times) that the little girl in it had very curly hair but the girl pictured on the cover had straight hair. Drove me nuts.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I like the pix to match too, Suzanne!

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Mark said...

if these editors are so smart, why don't they ever write books? :-)

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Most editors ARE smart, Mark! My Ami has an amazing God-given gift to see to the heart of story and character. And Erin Healy is gifted like that as well. Erin also writes, but many editors don't. Ami doesn't even want to write. She loves what she does.

But I think this copyeditor might have been a wannabe writer and was trying to "improve" my work. And I should have made it clear that I LOVE edits. Love to learn, love to get to work on honing. But it was clear this one didn't know much about fiction. She was probably a good non fiction editor though.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Lynette Eason said...

Oh my. I haven't had any nightmares like that yet...but it just goes to show you: You can only blame the author if you don't like the story, not the rest of the content!!

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Diann Hunt said...

"Glad it's all behind you now, C!" Diann encouraged.

Your copyeditor obviously was overly-ambitious; or maybe she just really wanted you to use semicolons and colorful speaker attributes," Diann pointed out.

I HATE long paragraphs, too! Give me short, quippy--Gilmore Girl style dialogue!

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Laughing, Di! You illustrated it so well. :-)

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Oldwoman_58 said...

Wow Colleen! Sorry you had such a poor experience. Maybe your comments will help this person to be a better editor in the future. Hope you've recovered from this episode.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I've mostly recovered, except for a few heart palpitations, Oldwoman! LOL And what's with the name? If you're 58, that is NOT old! That's middle aged like me. :-)

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I'm with you, Colleen. I really never use semicolons in writing fiction, but I've had copy editors add them.

I hate that.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're SO right about the words. I recently quit reading a mystery series because the main character was constantly shrieking, gasping, and yelping. She wore me out! I just didn't have the strength to read another book.


At 10:33 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...


And yes, editing and writing are different skill sets. Some authors do both well and some editors can do both. Other editors, like fabo Ami is uniquely talented at making a good story great.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Beverly said...

Interesting insight into the writer's world!

I have to wonder if the person was fresh out of college and a a product of text messaging, computer slang, and a culture who doesn't read, except for college assignments. Censoriously? Sounds like someone thumbing through a thesaurus, to me. :-) In some ways, I have to feel sorry for the person. They blew their chance editing for an established author.

But, having read one too many "She gasped" to my daughter in a little Fairy Series she enjoys, I appreciate your tenacity and teaching. :-)

Hang in there!

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Things that don't kill tax audits, stomach flu, and Christmas shopping?

You could deal with the copy editor and make it look like an accident. (Oooo! Intrigue!) I shot an editor with ketchup at the break table once. It was unintentional, since it's very difficult to control those handy little condiment packets. The intended victim was my hamburger.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

“Considering the number of novels that I’ve seen those things in,” Timothy lamented, “it seems understandable that she would think you needed them too.”

At 3:36 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Ooh Beth, you think like me! :-)

Laughing, Timothy! You did that so well. :-)

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Rachel Hauck said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Edna said...

I am not a writter but I read everyday and a I don't like the parts of the books that is in italic it just bugs me for some reason, I rather it all be written the same, I usally always skip over letters that the people in the books write to each other, I don;t know it is gets to me.


At 11:53 PM, Blogger Barb said...

The heroine of a book I read recently had blond hair. The cover, though, featured what I assumed to be a rendering of Keira Knightley. I usually don't compare the cover art to the actual characters, but this was a glaring difference.

One of my pet peeves is the overuse of description in some cases. Get on with the story already!

At 2:28 AM, Blogger Cheri said...

I am a first time visitor to your site and have read many of the books some of you have written. I look forward to experiencing new adventures from new authors.

There are one or two things that bother me about the editing in books. Sometimes, the action of a character is so out place that it breaks my train of thought (or gives me a good laugh).

The other is about 3/4 of the through the book it seems there are mistakes in the way a word is used. It is spelled right but used wrong. I never blame the author. :)

Colleen, I am reading "Abomination" and love it. While reading any of the "Bree" books with her search dogs I get so involved I read through the night. A great way to lose sleep! :)

Keep writing all and thanks to all of you for your hard work.


At 5:18 AM, Blogger SketchGirl said...

I hate it when:
1. the issue is resolved in the last few pages
2. the book seems to end too soon
3. the heroine picks the same male character to end up with
4. too much description
5. the characters have no personality or really bug me
that's only ever been about 5% of books i've read
95% I've thoroughly enjoyed and completed within a day

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

You girls are really giving us some good stuff to watch for! I always try to leave out the paragraphs of description I usually skip in other books. Cheri, glad you loved the Rock Harbor books!

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

My worst one was a guy NYT type for a chick lit. Ugh, that was painful. But he had changed Chones -- which is Mexican slang for underwear to cajones, which is Spanish for part of the male anatomy.

He wrote 54 single spaced "fixes". Every word he changed took a paragraph of explanation. Sigh. Glad you got thru it.


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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