Of Home Maintenance and Copy Editing

paint

Why on earth is there a photograph of a messy paint can on a writing blog?

Yesterday, we had two important pre-winter maintenance jobs done on our house: we hired a handyman to paint the trim and sealcoat the driveway. We live in a climate with both hot and cold extremes, which can be very hard on buildings and pavements. The repainting usually has to be done every five years or so. The sealcoating every other year.

Neither my husband nor I are particularly handy with home repair jobs, so unless it’s something on the order of hanging a picture, we usually have to hire someone else to do it. This time we used a man who’s done a lot of odd jobs for one of our neighbors, so we felt confident that he did quality work. And we weren’t disappointed. He inspected the wood trim of the house carefully, caulked any cracks he found, replaced one piece of trim from which a piece had rotted away, and then applied two coats of durable paint. He was equally meticulous with the sealcoating.

It occurs to me that this process is a lot like what’s going on with my novel right now. The manuscript has started coming back from the copy editor for me to review. In terms of grammar, spelling, usage, and mechanics, the corrections are very light. I’ve worked in publishing for 24 years, so I made sure to send him the cleanest copy that I could. However, he is still finding little cracks and holes in the narrative—places where I could crank up the tension a bit with an appropriate action or gesture and dialogue where choosing a slightly different word might enhance the period feel.

Part of me is impatient to get this stage over with and move on to the production process to send my baby out into the world, but yesterday as I worked through some of the editor’s comments, I realized that I can’t rush this important step. Once the book is published, I will have lost my chance to do any further “maintenance” on it. As with the house repairs, I have a skilled workman performing this task to make up for any deficiencies I might bring to the project. I need to trust him. I need to listen.

In many ways, the important thing about writing is the process, not the end product. Yesterday, I had to learn that lesson all over again. Somehow I suspect that this won’t be the last time.

4 Comments

Filed under Publishing

4 responses to “Of Home Maintenance and Copy Editing

  1. It’s interesting to hear about the process, and I think the “home improvement/maintenance” analogy is a good one! Neither I nor my fiancè are particularly “handy” about the house either. We can do some things, but in general, also pay somebody else. That, and I yearn for a robot maid.

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