Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Hank's Writing: It's Copy Edit Time!


-->
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: First: Breaking news!

So what we're writing? Well, first, ten million thank you notes--at least--to the universe at large! THE MURDER LIST is nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary novel!  AND--drumroll: for the Mary Higgins Clark Award! I am overwhelmed, and my feet have not yet touched the ground. And--super bonus-- our dear Rhys LOVE AND DEATH IN THE TIME OF CHEETAHS is also an Agatha nominee--for best Historical.  SO fabulous! And we are both thrilled and incredibly grateful.

(The Agathas will be awarded at the Malice Domestic convention in May--where Red Julia is Guest of honor. Need I say: world domination? )

What I'm actually writing? Well, first, hurray. On Monday I finished (and sent in, with five whole minutes to spare before the deadline!)  the copy-edited version of my new book!

Copy edits. Can we talk? I actually adore doing them--it's the time where I can carefully carefully carefully look at every single word and every single sentence and paragraph, AND the book’s big picture,  and see how I can make the book better, clearer, more special. It's like a treasure hunt. But it is quite the journey.

The manuscript arrived, with all the copyeditor's changes and thoughts. It's a little intimidating to see all the corrections and questions. So, to make it easier to handle, first I go through and search for all my pet words. "Of course," and "actually" and "even" and "just"--I go through and ask myself: why did I use that word? What did I mean to say? How can I say that better? And that's a wonderful way to reacquaint myself  with the book. 

I look for qualifiers--Nancy Pickard taught me this--kind of, sort of, almost, maybe, could be, possibly. I try to take them all out.  Sentences are so much stronger without them.

I can confess I had used "of course" 41 times. Isn't that crazy? And I took out every use of "very"--at least when it was used to increase the value of the word it modified. Very angry, very upset, very  nervous. Delete, delete, delete. I can do better than that.

Then, another trick, I search for the word "like."  That lets me discover whether  I have fallen in love with any similes. Yes, indeed, I had. There were several mother/daughter and teacher/student comparisons.   Nope, all gone.

Then I search for semi-colons. Yup, I am not a fan, and the copy editor always rearranges my sentences to put them in. I usually make the sentence into two.

I also search for the phrases I seem to have fallen in love with--things about what happens to people's knees--turning to jelly, or mush, or shaking or whatever knees do. No knees do anything any more. After my copy edits, people no longer shrug. Or grin. Or shrug and grin. Or PAUSE! Argh.  HOW did I write all that stuff?

Oh, and everyone grimaced! No one flinched or winced. Or, heaven forbid, did nothing. ALL grimaces. All gone.

And whoa. Every single thing was gray in this book. The sky, the furniture, the rugs, the walls. The cat, the car. People's faces, their sweatshirts, the clouds, the snow, the slush. Uniforms, hair, seagulls. Yeesh. Most of the grays have now been changed to other colors. 

Then, ta dah! THE BATTLE OF THE HYPHENS.  This is a battle royal. Let's vote, Reds. Co-conspirator, or coconspirator?  Thirtysomething or  thirty-something?  Midsentence or mid-sentence?  I am all about hyphens, especially if the un-hyphenated word doesn't look like a word.  And the compound words: back yard or backyard? Face up or faceup? (I really loathe faceup. That's just not even a word.) So we battle over that.

And here's a new one. To me, at least.  Do you know there's not supposed to be a comma before too? Like: I want one, too. The CE took out all the commas in sentences like that. It's now: I want one too. Can that be right? Grr. 

And apparently I cannot spell "through." It comes out "though" every time. And I take out all the exclamation marks.

In other copy edit news, Ashley the copyeditor  brilliantly found at least two career-ending errors. Maybe three. Well, possibly not career-ending, but at least hideously embarrassing. So I would battle over everything else happily, given how grateful I am about those discoveries.

Here's another page of the copy edits, just to give you a tiny glimpse of the book to come.

And may I say two more things? 

I am SO excited about this book! Crossing fingers you love it, too. (HA. See what I did there?)

And--SO HAPPY ABOUT THE AGATHA and MHC nomination. 

So, Reds and readers, how do you feel about hyphens?   And is there a comma before "too" when it's used to mean "also"?

96 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the nominations, Hank! [So well-deserved.] And congratulations to Rhys, too.

    Copy-editing looks very involved. I’m looking forward to reading the book . . . .

    Well, I like hyphens. They make more sense than words that just look wrong. Faceup? Really? I don’t think so.
    And, yes, I put a comma before “too” when it means also.
    Who changed all those grammar rules, anyway?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so agree about hyphens! I am always in favor of something making instant sense. Imagine that.
      And yes, I am told it is the Chicago manual of style.
      Thank you so much!

      Delete
  2. This sounds like fun. I studied English in college and I'm always volunteering to help my friend's kids with their English essays. Hardly anyone takes me up on it more than once. Maybe it's all that red? 🤷‍♀️😬

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And congrats on those nominations. How exciting.

      Delete
    2. Well, I welcome it! I love all that bread… It’s just more fun when it makes sense :-) and thank you !

      Delete
    3. Hank, I assume that's why you're a successful author and most others are not.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congratulations to Hank and Rhys!

    Give me hyphens and give me a comma before too. Of course, I also believe in the serial comma. 100% with you on semi-colons, too. They are neither fish nor fowl a my mother would say. Sounds like you are rocking these edits, Hank. Rock on. Do you have a title?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I am a serial, person too! Yes, I do! More to come :-) xxxxx

      Delete
  5. Congratulations, Hank and Rhys! I'm so excited for you both!

    My copy editor started insisting I remove the comma before too several books ago. I've finally trained myself to do it voluntarily, so I expect the "rule" to be changed back any day now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that is so interesting, Annette! Driving me crazy. Oh wait: driving me crazy, too.
      And congratulations to you too, darling one! So wonderful to see you nominated for the Agatha for best contemporary novel!

      Delete
    2. Congratulations Annette on your nomination

      Delete
    3. Congratulations on your Agatha nomination, Annette! It's a well-deserved honor.

      Delete
  6. Many congratulations!

    No comma before "too" just looks wrong. As a tech writer I learned to hyphenate two words when they act an an adjective. My fiction copyeditors often want to change that. No to "faceup" - just no. And I have the same semicolon battle, too. (See?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So your publisher does not use the Chicago manual of style, Edith? Lucky you! And congratulations on your Agatha nomination!

      Delete
    2. Congratulations Edith on your nomination, I like so much your midwife series.

      Delete
    3. Yes, congratulations, Edith! We have quite the laurel-wreathed group hanging out at JRW, don't we? :-)

      Delete
  7. Congratulations on the two nominations Hank, well deserved!

    The Battle of the Hyphens...sounds like a title of a literary based cozy series! When I write my book reviews for the magazine, I am so happy that I have an editor that kicks butt at making me look something closer to smart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, when the copy editor finds a problem, I am always so thrilled!

      Delete
  8. Congratulations to Hank and Rhys: Yay!!!

    As for hyphens, I say yes. Use them to clarify. And I’m a strong supporter of semi-colons — old fashioned and perfect in the right spot. But I recognize that I hold a minority dissenting position on that matter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you can just instinctively feel when a semicolon is correct… Still, I always notice them in books! They are not seamless punctuation to me.
      And oh, thank you!

      Delete
    2. I agree with Amanda too. ;>)

      Delete
    3. I knew it, Ann: We were separated at birth! LOL

      Delete
  9. Congrats on the noms, Hank! I cannot wait to read your new book. I always have trouble with hyphens too. Yes, i wanted to put a comma there; does not seem right without it. Thank you for a wonderful lesson.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a beautiful semi-colon, Judi!! You’ve made my morning :)

      Delete
    2. I agree! It looks so bizarre, and like a mistake

      And thank you, this part of writing is nerve-crazed and exciting!

      Delete
  10. Congratulations, Hank! Tie a brick to your feet--we don't want you floating out to sea. Old school here: yes to commas after too. Semicolons, yes when helpful. If the two connected thoughts are too long, then by all means split into two complete sentences.

    And love your approach to copyedits--make it better is my mantra, too! One thing some copyeditors forget, though, is that language is fluid, not immutable. It changes. Always respect the author's voice when copyediting! (And there's another example: copyedit? or copy edit?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you! Now let me think… I think I make it one word… Do you?

      Delete
  11. The no comma before too thing--that comma will make its way back. Mark my words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so! I kept trying to put it back in!

      Delete
    2. I really think it looks like a mistake! I don’t care what the manual says :-)

      Delete
  12. Oh yes, Hank, GRIN. Also my downfall. My characters keep grinning like idiots. And ‘of course’ rears it’s ugly head too often for me too
    I bet it’s wonderful now

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And in real life, isn’t it true that people hardly ever grin? I mean… never! And yet....
      And yes, I love taking that stuff out.

      Delete
    2. Oh ! Reading about a character grinning makes me grin also, makes me happy.

      Delete
  13. CONGRATS on your nominations!
    A copy editor laid the lay down: windblown, cell phone, bookbag, warm-up, T-shirt, voicemail, lifelike, halftime, play-offs, long-sleeve, freestanding, nonstop.
    Compound words are crazy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! So happy!
      Is it oversized or oversized?
      Like: wearing an oversized shirt? Or oversize shirt?

      Delete
    2. laid the law done. sigh. puppies.

      Oversize fit means generous, not tailored. Oversized is relaxed to baggy. Find another word.

      Delete
  14. Congratulations Hank on your nominations, I loved The Murder List.
    Very interesting post, so many things to watch out.
    I like hyphens, see my commenter's name ? LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perfect!
      And thank you!
      No I am wondering if she took out the commas in is in the murder list, too. See what I did there? Xxxx

      Delete
    2. Now I am wondering – – Was what that was supposed to say.

      Delete
  15. Hank, I'm not at all surprised at your nominations. Congratulations and best of luck.

    I don't write for a living or even for fun. However, I don't use a comma before too. I do use the Oxford comma; that was the way I was taught in school. Hyphens are a gift from the grammar gods. They clarify, and that should be required in writing if the reader is to understand. (I also like parentheses -- although dashes are making a needed inroad and don't require a shift key.)

    I do hate it when a book I am reading requires editing. Once I picked up a copy of some Andrew Greeley book to read on a plane. He used the word arguably 51 times in as many pages, and I thought to myself, he needs an editor. I left that book on the plane, and I never ever bought another one.

    Everyone's a critic -- and an editor too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed! Drives me crazy! I read a book by a FAMOUS AUTHOR who used the word “pausing” so much I could not go on !
      (This is why they say to read your manuscript out loud.)

      (And thank you! Xxxxx)

      Delete
  16. Congrats Hank on the MHC!

    I am all about the hyphens for compound words. I hate the look of two things smashed together.

    According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the comma before "too" should only be used to emphasize an abrupt change of thought. And since CMOS is, I believe, the rule in publishing it's not surprising the CE takes them out.

    That said, I always use them. Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
  17. You mean oh, well. Xxxxx

    Yes it’s annoyingly confusing. Hmmm . Can you think of an example when one should be used?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The example the CMOS gave was "He didn’t know at first what hit him, but then, too, he hadn’t ever walked in a field strewn with garden rakes."

      Which is a stupid sentence, but that's another kettle of fish.

      Delete
  18. Congratulations to you (and Rhys) for the Agatha nominations! And thank you for sharing your copy edit process. It's all good writing advice with or without an Ashley hovering over your manuscript.

    I am totally on your side when it comes to unhyphenated mashup words. Take backyard. You have a front yard. You have a side yard. Why do you have a backyard? Or a backseat, for that matter? If the brick that surrounds your house is red, why is it a redbrick house? If the blood that flows through your veins is red, why must we put up with bloodred? We would never refer to something as bloodgreen, even if we were Vulcan.

    As for commas, I decided long ago that there are comma light people and comma heavy people. Some take them all out. Some put them all in. I tend toward comma heavy, but I'm trying to learn. I think of commas as more of an art than a science.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SO much this, Gigi! Bloodgreen, indeed.

      Delete
    2. Perfect! Can you come over??? Yes backseat—kidding me? If it doesn’t look like a word, I’m not gonna use it. Xxxx

      Delete
  19. Woohoo, Hank and Rhys, on the nominations!! So excited for you both, and for several other writing friends who hang out here: Edith Maxwell, Annette Dashofy, Catriona MacPherson, et al.

    So if we are meant to exclude a comma before "too, meaning also", we would also exclude it before, "also", "as well", and "additionally". Which means it needs to be there, in my book. When they're missing it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb to me.

    Hyphens and compound words, which seem to get more complicated daily, drive me batty. There never seems to be consensus on which are hyphenated, which are broken into two words, and which are linked together into one. And autocorrect, especially when used with dictation, does not help a bit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes yes yes! So agree!
      Is there a way to do what seems reasonable and easy to read?? Just a thought...

      Delete
  20. No one's going to be surprised that I come down on the side of hyphens. Hyphens everywhere!!

    I think the comma-before-too rule doesn't acknowledge there's a difference between academic or journalistc writing, and fiction. In the former, the author is presenting a factual narrative, and the individual voice, if you will, is supposed to be absent, or at the very least, in the background.

    But in fiction, there's ALWAYS a human voice. If not actual dialog, then narration from a third person perspective. Even the old-fashioned omniscient narration is a voice. And when an English-speaking human says they want something as well, it comes out, "I want one, too." There's a very small natural delineation in the spoken phrase. Try it out loud, and you'll see! I think this is why "I like commas too" may be technically correct, but it "I like commas, too" sounds better in a novel.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I think no commas and no hyphens are the result of too much texting. Heck, people who text don't use Capital letters and don't even use periods at the ends of sentences, so I have to re-read (not reread) the message in order to figure out what was said!

    When I was in school, which was, granted, in a previous century, I was taught to use a comma before too (also) and to use serial commas. We used hyphens or separate words and some agreed-upon compound words, but not mashedupones! But, (and I know I was taught NOT to begin a sentence with But or And) to everything there is a season, and I guess this is a new one.

    Congratulations to Hank and Rhys and Edith,,,,,,, too! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? Reread is not even a word. :-)

      So tell me again the compound word rule?

      Delete
  22. Congratulations to Hank, Rhys, and Edith!

    Hank, I always put a comma before "too." I also use the Oxford comma.

    Tip for words you always type wrong: add a shortcut to AutoCorrect. (In my version of Word it's in the Tools menu.) I do this for comments I use frequently when grading papers. For example, my AutoCorrect shortcut for "throughout" is "trt." When I need to use it in a marginal comment, I type "Fix trt." and AutoCorrect changes it to "Fix Throughout." I've added a bunch of comments to my AutoCorrect (how to use conjunctions, how to fix sentence fragments, etc.) to save time when grading. It could save you time while typing and editing your MS. :) If you need a more detailed explanation, email me at cathyaj @ icloud.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I do that for Joseph and chapter and sheriff, words I can never spell! — but I had no idea I could not spell through :-) I am going to add that to my list… Great idea!

      Delete
  23. What??? No comma before too? That can’t be right! Sadly, I do not love copyedits. By then, I am so over the book we’ve become frenemies. Good for you for digging in, Hank. And congrats on the noms - so fabulous and well deserved!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank yoiu! And yes, I agree. It CANNOT be right. And I also had to cut 3000 words, so it was pretty surgical! I'd much rather copy edit than do a first draft. ANY DAY.

      Delete
  24. Ooo, big congrats to all Red nominees, and Red Readers too.

    Well, I'll avoid the ; - ,too discussion, and go straight to copy editing (copy-editing?).

    The other day a submitted short story was freed up (no, actually NOT rejected. They cancelled the project; not enough submissions.) A minute later another potential home offered itself. I needed to reduce the word count by 246. Really? I'd already done this several times, but now...2500 words. Okay.

    I got ruthless. And "of course"less, and "just"less. I knocked out 300 words. And wow, I was amazed at how much improved it was. Again. So much excess verbiage gone.

    And such a good feeling afterwards, like cleaning out a kitchen drawer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SUCH a good exercise--life-changing! . Try looking for "even" and "about" and "actually," too. And I SO agree. SO nice and clean.

      Delete
  25. Congratulations to Edith and Rhys too.
    There, I got to use the commaless too, too.
    Rhys, Julie and I were just talking last night about how much we enjoyed the last evening at Bouchercon, sitting and talking and, uh, drinking with you. Who knew you were a choral singer amongst so many other things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And how did the commaless too feel? Not as much fun as drinking with Julia, I bet. (see? I bet still needs a comma, right? And right, too!

      Delete
    2. It was Rhys, and it was more like a coma by the last round — for me anyway. I can’t speak for Julie, Melinda, or Rhys.

      Delete
  26. Hank, Congratulations!!! It never occurred to me to use a comma before "too". My Mom taught English and I grew up being very careful about my writing. LOL. Still, I do make mistakes sometimes. I once used hyphen in a college paper and perhaps I used it too many times because my professor said "only Herb Caen can get away with that." Herb Caen was a columnist for the San Francisco newspapers.

    A great editor makes a difference. There were times when I could not finish reading a novel because of lackluster editing.

    Diana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! And yes, so with ya--I am all about hyphens.

      Delete
    2. Wait--it never occurred to you to use a comma before too? That is FASCINATING.

      Delete
    3. Me too? Never occurred to me to write me, too?

      Delete
  27. Hank, congrats on all the noms! And congrats to Rhys, and Edith, and Annette! You are all spectacular!

    I am definitely on the side of the comma before too. Otherwise, (see the comma there!) it looks like a mistake. And the Oxford comma, and the hyphen. But not the semicolon! If the copy editor puts them in, I will make two sentences. They are fine for technical writing but I don't like them in fiction.

    Don't even talk to me about compound words. I CANNOT get them right. If I hyphenate, the copy editor takes them out. If I run the words together, the copy editor separates them. Even when I try to second guess myself (I think it should be this way, so I'm probably wrong and will do it the other way...) I get it wrong. Sending you lots of encouragement, Hank!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've done that too. Argh. ANd how aobut making all the sounds in italics> Like ping? In her ["Her phone pinged with a text"--would you put ping in italics? And I mean--not the ed. Just the ping? No no no.

      Delete
  28. Uh, everybody? Don't you know we are what we are inside us. The Great Sioux said it best : "Seek your own being's center. Then become that! " Which they believed was in the navel.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Congratulations to all you nominated authors! I don't really have a dog in this fight, grammar-wise. I notice that grammar and usage keep changing. I do what comes natural. I tend to punctuate the way I speak, so there may be a comma tossed in and there may not be one. My only inviolable rule is the Oxford comma. Hank, I love the excerpts! When do we get more?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Pat D! Well, they're putting together the ARCs right now..so maybe a month? ANd the book comes out in August. YIKES!

      Delete
  30. Reds world domination, indeed! Brava to all. Looking forward to applauding at Malice. I love to read about other authors copy editing.Nice to know I'm not the only person who struggles with deleting all those excessive "just" and "shrugged."And count me in on hyphens. If it, or any other symbol, clarifies meaning and tone, it belongs there. Right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SO agree! And what is the deal on shrugging? But can anyone tell me how to describe the face someone makes when they are thinking: how the heck do i know?

      Delete
  31. Hank, I am so happy for you and Rhys and your nominations! So well-deserved (hyphen noted, hahaha). And, Julia being Guest of Honor at Malice is indeed the icing on the cake. Congratulations all!

    I have to tell you, Hank, that I love the copy edit talk. I always said I should have been an editor. When I worked with students on their writing portfolios, I loved the point where the piece was written and we were dealing with those items that could make it better. "Very" is a word that I still use some, but I try to avoid it, and if I do use it, I feel guilty. My writing teacher in high school was adamant about avoid that word. I will have to argue against eradicating the comma before "too" when it means also. I would have a hard time giving that comma up. And, the hyphens. I'm sure that I would get called on using those too often. Counting up the number of time you use pet words must be a real eye-opener. I should try that sometime. Making a good piece of writing better is an exciting process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree--some people think it's annoying, but I love to see my book emerging from the clutter! Yeah, I am hanging on to that comma...xoxoo

      Delete
  32. Hank, congratulations on your nominations. Congrats to Rhys and to Edith, too. I am very excited for all of you.
    Yeah, you can have my semi-colons, but keep your mitts off of my commas!
    Your attack on frivolous words and phrases is positively inspirational. Too bad some news reporters love certain words so much, you have to change the channel. Not that I can watch the news very much these days anyway.
    When you are editing your book, I think that reading the book out loud is practical because chances are, it will be read aloud by someone and become part of an audible library.
    Loved the peak at your story. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you are so right! And if I hear one more silly alliteration.....:-)

      Delete
  33. Shalom Reds and fans. When I was a typographer, I purchased a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style and a book called Words into Type. I still have them in my possession, according to my Library Thing index, which I compiled in 2012. I would be hard-pressed to find them if you asked me now. The copyright date on the former was 1969 and the latter was 1974. I haven’t used them in over 30 years and I am sure much about usage has changed in that time. The one thing I can’t get used to is the possessive apostrophe after a noun that ends in s. I still resist adding another s whether in writing or in speech. Squires’ rule.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hate those double s things! SO silly! It look ridiculous. I do it your way. xoo

      Delete
  34. Replies
    1. Oh, thank you so much! xoxooo And Rhys says thanks, too!

      Delete
  35. Congratulations Hank and Rhys!

    That's why I was a math major.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohhhhhhhhh I bow to your greater intellect and bravery... xx

      Delete
  36. Amanda Le RougetelJanuary 23, 2020 at 7:39 PM

    Test comment to see if it publishes via Google Chrome.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Congrats on the nominations and finishing the copy edits.

    I'm finding that I start way too many sentences with Of course, and However. However, I don't seem able to stop.

    ReplyDelete
  38. This is just another test by Amanda Le R to see if I can post with my name as a commenter. Google and Gmail are flummoxing me at every turn...

    ReplyDelete
  39. Doesn't punctuation depend on which stylebook (and which version of said stylebook) you are charged with using?

    ReplyDelete