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Mer versus the Copy Edit

(Blue*) blood on the first page: remark one is a stet. But my editor wrote a note saying she supported a stet if I felt it stettable. That was like "permission granted!" in my world.

I was so disoriented from this that I just threw post-it flags on the next two things that weren't about commas (I comma like I'm a freaking Klecha, apparently) and moved on to page 1. (More commas. A rephrasing I thoroughly agreed with.)

Page three. Hyphen removal? Yes, of course. But. The word "only" removed from a sentence?

I am actually now looking at sentences and diagnosing them down to a level that I had never really considered. The word "only" does not materially affect the meaning of the sentence. It may, in some regard, be superfluous. It is--possibly--wrong, though I can't see how. (Not that this means anything. I'm grammar-blind. I have a good ear, and I believe everything I learned in 8th grade, but if I didn't learn it then, I'm terrible about amending my understanding now. Especially if the understanding gets in the way of my experience of the voice.)

"She looked so calm and regal, it was hard to remember that she'd been Princess Consort for only two years, ever since she was thirteen."

ETA: I have just changed the whole sentence completely. The only is back out. Ever is back out. Why does this make sense in the morning? and it doesn't at night?

I keep taking out the "only." It's so not necessary for meaning. And yet it is innately, gut-levelly important to that sentence to me. I feel ridiculous. I don't parse things like other people do. I could diagram it, but it wouldn't mean more to me. But I can say it aloud, and aloud, it's just plain wrong without the word "only."

OMG, I'm on page three, and I've spent twenty-five minutes (including typing up this entry) on the word "only."

I put down a stet. I have the power to stet! Stet-I-can!

(When (if) you read this sentence in the future, please... don't think of what you witnessed here tonight.)

I left the rest of page three alone, though I witnessed:

-a hyphen massacre (it encourages the others);
-something my editor stetted for me, tyvm
-"sadly" changed to "still" which is a local teen vernacular thing my stepdaughter does and it's good someone excised it from my writing
-a comment on time that was just a comment

Page four. And here's where I've really done my best work today, and no, we're not talking about the first thing on page four, which is flagging something to come back to later where the fix would either throw off the voice or cause word rep.

"She stabbed the spit-hardened thread through the needle's eye and bent her head to continue sewing."

CE's note: "spitting on a thread doesn't really harden it, just makes it cohere so individual fibers don't block threading; maybe spit-sharpened?"

Now, of course, no one who sews spits ON thread; you run it between your lips after wetting it in your mouth, but by god, explain THAT in less than two words or risk boring everyone on earth to DEATH, even people who don't read your work. The sentence as a whole is, at best, competent and workmanlike, and I think "to continue sewing" and I are going to have words later, but... triumph! "Spit-smoothed" is the word that I want. Not "spit-hardened." Nor "spit-sharpened." "Spit-smoothed."

Oh, yeah.

Now we're cooking.

Almost a quarter of the way down page four.

Yeah. This train is unstoppable.


* My pencil is blue. I had to steal a colored pencil from my stepdaughter, and blue hasn't been used, so blue is what I have.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
The 'only' sounds like a flow/rhythm thing to me (not meaning or grammar). When I read the sentence out aloud, I can see why the 'only' should stay - when I read it silently, I like it better without the word. If it's a rhythm thing, then maybe try reading the whole paragraph aloud and see what happens?
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
Hm. I've read 75% of the book aloud and did much of my minute editing while doing that (I hope to have the patience to do the remaining 25% now). I am quite sure that it fits the aloud rhythm.

The question now is: do I write for the page or for the aloudness (and the percentage of readers who "hear" the words in their heads?). Uhm. I have no clue. I guess my kneejerk reaction is "the aloudness."

Good thing I'm going to bed momentarily.
Nov. 5th, 2010 04:32 am (UTC)
In an ideal world, we write for the eye *and* the ear, I guess. If you did your editing aloud, then that's what it reads like as a whole. Make you choices in the direction that fits your style and your voice, if all else is equal.
Nov. 5th, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
I think "only" reads better there, too. It gives a clue to what the protag thinks of herself and her tenure: "only" two years makes it sound like it's flown by.

That's just me, though. I sort of suck at grammar. Don't tell anyone.

Edited at 2010-11-05 11:59 pm (UTC)
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Feel totally free to ignore this. Totally. Or to /whap me.

But, the phrase "ever since" often colloquially implies a lengthier period of time, a stretch from past into present (I've had this dog ever since I was five); the word 'only' as used implies a small period of time, so it's just possible that the CE felt the two had a subtle clash in the sentence, and chose to delete the first, rather than remove the 'ever'.

And yes, it's stylistic -- but I've had sentences that had similar changes, and that was part of the reasoning for some of the small word deletions or changes that had been made the first time out.
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
Aha! Now here's the part I elided over because I didn't want to get TOO into it, but I guess I should have. I just put "ever" in because I felt that without it, the sentence could be misconstrued--"since" by itself could be interpreted as causal.

The CE still wanted "only" out without "ever since."

But I think you have determined the actual issue that the CE has, and thus, I may actually be able to construct a better sentence. So. Thanks! No /whaps.
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
"Ever since she turned 13," maybe.

And "blue-pencilling" as a synonym for editing is traditional! It's always been the boss editor's color! YAY!
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
Right! But my boss editor used gray, and I feel like I'm off in some wrong-colored world on my own without a purple pencil. ;) (Someone else used green, but no idea who yet, and they've used it not much. I actually have a print-out of track changes with my CE and my proofreader's comments with initials, and no colors from them. And a set of changes with no initials. It's all a mystery that I'm slowly unraveling.)
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:26 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, dependence on The Real Color...yeah.

And I goofed, up there. "Ever since she *had* turned 13," or "she'd," depending on the formality of the voice. *headdesk*
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
I was going to say, as above--it actually means a different thing without the 'only'.

Also, I had no idea the comma usage was a family trait. Does this mean I can blame my parents and/or Dave for it? *g*
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:20 am (UTC)
I feel like I've had to chisel at some of Dave's commas from time to time, and I have heard the epic tales of the comma-chiseling from your Julie about you, so I assumed it was a Klecha thing! Whether or not you can blame your nature/nurture axis is, really, entirely up to you.
Nov. 5th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
The "only" adds a different meaning to me.

"Only" suggests that two years is a short period of time and she is coming off as more experienced than than one might expect after, well, only two years. :-) Without the "only" the meaning I take is "hey, she's been princess for two years now, so of course she appears calm and regal."

I agree it doesn't need the "ever".
Nov. 7th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
I don't have a problem with your "only", and my support has nothing to do with grammar or sentence flow. It implies in a single word that two years isn't normally long enough for a young Princess Consort to learn how to look calm and regal.
Nov. 7th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
And I see that I'm only agreeing with what Shekkara already said. :)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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