SF/F Copyediting

What

Copyediting. The Big Idea is fully spun out on the page, and you’re happy with it. You want to make sure there’s absolutely nothing blocking the path from your work to the reader, to be certain that the finely tuned machine that is the story has no imperfections that can make it work to less than its full potential.

That’s my job. I take care of cleaning that window between the work and the reader so that all they see is the idea. And I come with a full toolkit to make this happen:

Grammar. You want the reader to understand exactly what you mean (or to be precisely as confused as you wish them to be). Included under this overly broad heading are spelling (Are there alternate spellings, dialectal/regional variants, understandable local-accent representations, etc.?), punctuation (commas, dashes, hyphens, semicolons…I’ll corral them all for you), and so on; the nuts-and-bolts mechanics are my neighborhood. I’ll make sure there’s no interference with your signal.

Voice. Your narrator and characters all have voices of their own, speaking in their own particular way. They’re all intended to be realistic, believable people, distinct from each other. Planetary Director Cirosta t’Lirenzan always speaks with an understated, sophisticatedly sarcastic tone, not at all like the gruff, rustic grousing of dwarven warrior Bruagh… but she knows how to talk to him in his own idiom. Voice is key; it’s part and parcel of the copyeditor’s work, making sure each line of dialogue or narration matches exactly what the writer wants the character or narrator to say.

Continuity. The reader is introduced to the Alliance of Light in the very first chapter but is confused when the characters finally visit the “Light Alliance” ten chapters later? Terleste sits down on one page… and then the reader sees that she sits down “again” on the next page without ever having stood? Keeping an eye out for unintended in-universe factual shifts like this is the copyeditor’s work.

And, in the end, none of the above three exist in a vacuum. They all interact on multiple levels and must be adapted for best service to the author’s creation. I’m most at home with the Chicago Manual (for those who pay attention to such things), as it’s the one I’ve studied most recently and most in depth, but I’ll make a confession:
I do not always follow it. Chicago, like any of the most respected guides, has detailed guidelines, but we must remember that they are guidelines. You’ll find that Chicago says many times and in many ways that they are, in the end, suggestions (using words like usually, normally, ideally, most, etc.). Why is this? Because the editors of Chicago recognize one important fact: sometimes, following the guidelines in lockstep can be counter to the effect or message intended by the author. Sometimes, blind adherence can actually get in the way of maximum comprehensibility to the reader. And that is the most important determining factor in the choices made by a copyeditor: making the author’s intended message or effect as clear as possible to the reader. Everything else is secondary…even the “rules” as we understand them. I will adjust, flex or outright flout the guidelines as written if they risk getting in the way of that primary goal. If you understand that, we can work well together.

(NB: There is a big difference between copyediting and other kinds of editing. Check out the top post here for more information on that difference.)

 

I bring these and much more to the table. I’ll be honest: There are lots of good copyeditors out there, people who understand the language inside and out. In that respect, I’m proud to stand among peers. Where I’m different is in my lifelong familiarity with science fiction and fantasy. The standards, the images, the themes, the characters…they’re all things that I know. Things that I love.

The devil is in the details and I’m packing the holy water. But if you wish to speak with someone who has worked directly with me so that you can get a clearer picture of just what I do and how I go about it, I will gladly provide references.

 

Most recent work (see below for a partial visual list of individual books) includes projects done for a variety of clients of a vast array of sizes: Simon & Schuster (Saga), Tor (Tor.com), Hachette (Orbit), SkyhorsePenguin / Random House (Ace/Roc), Spencer Hill Press (Spence City), and Angry Robot, as well as both published and yet-unpublished independent authors (references / list of specific works supplied upon request). You’ll note by way of the list below that I also work with crime/thriller, YA and MG; while my greatest strength is in SF/F, my attention to detail is undiminished in any genre or subgenre.

 

(Please note the updated rate for new clients.)
Base rate is $27/hour
, assuming a pace of up to 10 pages/hour; this can and will vary on a case-by-case basis. Note: There are many copyeditors who charge a per-page rate, but I choose a per-hour rate to make it a more direct function of how much work is needed in order to smooth all of the above. In other words, if you submit exceptionally clean copy, would you expect to pay the same as someone whose work needs a bit more care? And if you’re in the latter category, wouldn’t you want to be certain that your mechanics monkey isn’t trying to rush some very exacting work? In either case, please contact me to discuss exactly what you need. I’m perfectly willing to take a look at a five- or ten-page sample to determine roughly what amount of work will be needed.

 

NOTE ON SUBMISSIONS: Any project submissions should follow these guidelines: Word (using Track Changes), 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced.

 

UPDATE ON SUBMISSION POLICY: I make zero distinction based on ethnicity, creed, gender, political views, D&D edition preference, sexual orientation, favorite sport and/or team, nationality, position on the coffee/tea continuum…basically, anything about the author that has nothing significant to do with the work itself. Likewise, I will accept no project that does make such distinction or that will be used by the author to further an attempt to cause others to make a negative distinction. In short, you can use your text to talk positively (or neutrally) about any group you wish, but putting a negative light on any real-life group that is doing no concrete harm can get you dropped.

Otherwise, the sky’s the limit. I’m here for the words, not to tell people what to think.

 

CURRENT STATUS: Contact for availability.

 

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