Take The Words Right Out Of My Mouth


By Louise Ure


The trade paperback edition of LIARS ANONYMOUS comes out in just two weeks, and with a brand new cover.




Isn’t that gorgeous? Equally eerie as the hard cover design but perhaps more ominous. As it should be.

In preparing for that launch, I was going back through some of the final paperwork on the novel and the plans and decisions made when it first came out. And what I found set me laughing so hard that it made up for a week’s worth of worry, stumbles and rain clouds.

I found a list of comments on the manuscript made by some unnamed copy editor at St. Martins.

Now, I adore copy editors of all shapes and sizes. In FORCING AMARYLLIS one copy editor discovered as we were going to press that I had set a pivotal courtroom scene on a Sunday. In THE FAULT TREE, one eagle-eyed editor noticed that I had moved a character’s cowlick from the front of his head (page 39) to the back of his head (page 225).

These are mistakes up with which readers should not put. I am forever grateful for the tireless efforts, intelligence and thinking that got those errors corrected.

But there’s another kind of copy editor, too. The kind who lives in a bubble of small thinking and even less curiosity … the kind of copy editor who would write this:

From Page 38: I walked farther north, toward a massive cottonwood tree that listed toward the arroyo like a dowsing rod. It stood fifty or sixty feet high, proof that this dry wash had once run full and that there remained enough water under the sand to sustain life. The tree had branched into three separate trunks down near its base, giving it a wide and low canopy of leaves like a sombrero.

(Note to author: Are trees in the southwest even big enough to climb?)

Response to copy editor: Yes, you imbecile. Please reread that part of the sentence where the tree is described as being right on the back of a once water-filled arroyo. And trust the word of someone who grew up there.


From Page 50: I spiked my hair with American Greaser, the only beauty product I use, and put on my favorite “keep your distance” t-shirt: “Some days it’s just not worth chewing through the restraints.” The tattooed jacks around my biceps were clearly visible.

(Note to author: Is it possible to say something this long on a t-shirt?)

Response to copy editor: Yes, you cretin. Especially the size I wear.


From Page 52: “¿Como está Felicia?” the woman beside me asked of the bartender.

(Note to author: “I don’t speak or write Spanish but this looks wrong to me.”)

Response to copy editor: Oh, really? Then maybe you should ask someone who speaks and writes Spanish.


From Page 72: I parked around the corner with a clear view of the back door through a tiny slice of space between a tree and a three-bay body shop. Felicia probably wouldn’t recognize my truck from here and, parked behind the tree the way I was, she wouldn’t be able to see my face either. I’d been there a half hour when the garage closed.

(Note to author: Three-bay body shop? Is this a brand name? I don’t drive so I don’t know.)

Response to copy editor: No, it’s not a brand name. And by the way, I don’t eat tofu but I still know what it is.


From Page 100: Beverly was just as petite as I remembered from our high school days — soft, rounded curves and pouter pigeon breasts — but her face had become that of a disappointed adult, with a built-in scowl and the onset of gray where she parted her hair.

(Note to author: “What kind of breasts do pigeons have?”)

Response to copy editor: Oh, my. Where to begin?


From Page 107: He put my keys and purse down on the concrete slab porch and stepped over to an ice chest near the sliding glass door. He pulled out two bottles of beer, opened them with a hinge on the side of the Igloo and held one out to me.

(Note to author: Are you calling the ice chest an igloo as a joke or is it a brand name of something?)

Response to copy editor: See above-referenced note about tofu. And the one that asks “where to begin?”


From Page 160: I heard the throaty roar of a big V8 outside, bragging on its horsepower and torque. I pulled the curtain to the side.

The black low rider came around again and this time the song blasting from the windows was about the hazards of smuggling. The four bandanaed bobbleheads in the car nodded and swayed to the beat. The guy in the front passenger seat stared at the house, then finger-shot me the way he had at the intersection on Friday.

(Note to author: I cannot verify the meaning of “bobbleheads.”)

Response to copy editor: Well, there you go. I guess there are some mysteries in life that just aren’t meant to be solved.


From Page 198: The setting sun turned the sky to persimmon then to bruise.

(Note to author: Is bruise a color?)

Response to copy editor: In my world, yes. And a noun. And a verb. And a threat.


From Page 216: “I’m telling you, man. I only just heard about it. I was in Nogales when you and the chica came in. I heard you asking about Carlos. That’s why I called.” The kid was flop sweat-nervous, but I didn’t know if he was afraid of Guillermo’s temper or the Braceros’ retribution.

(Note to author: Flop-sweat? What is this?)

Response to copy editor: It’s that unique combination of chills, stinky sweat and light-headedness that overcomes you when you see your career as a copy editor disappearing before your eyes.


From Page 319: Cambria Styles hadn’t changed much in the three years since I’d seen her. Dishwater blond hair, poker-straight almost to her waist. Sallow skin like she was an underwater creature. I reintroduced myself.

(Note to author: What color is dishwater?)

Response to copy editor: Oh, to be so young and innocent.


Of course, I didn’t really write all those nasty replies. But I did use my favorite four-letter word. Often.



What about you, ‘Rati? Any copy editing horror stories to share?


59 thoughts on “Take The Words Right Out Of My Mouth

  1. Catherine Shipton

    Hi Louise,

    With your help I just crossed the border to crazy as a loon. I don’t think I’ve ever before sat and laughed so hard, alone, that the sound echoed in my office. Each and every editor comment (after the actual useful one) was unintentionally wry and amusing..and sort of baffling in a wah way, but this one…

    From Page 52: "¿Como está Felicia?" the woman beside me asked of the bartender.

    (Note to author: “I don’t speak or write Spanish but this looks wrong to me.”)

    That brought out the laugh that echoed.

    The cover I think has a similar eerie foreboding that the lone tree had on the Fault Tree cover. Very nice.

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Louise

    Fabulous cover. And suffice to say that I’ve had my share of run-ins with copyeditors, too, although I’ll always be grateful for having clangers like the nine-day week in THIRD STRIKE pointed out before it got to print.

    I can still remember receiving a report on one book that berated me for displaying ‘a good deal of comma fault’, as well as misuse of ‘verbs of utterance’. Smack wrists all round.

    And the time I wrote STET 1251 times – yes, I was sad enough to keep a note of the number – on one copyeditor’s attempts to make my work conform to … something. I’m still not sure what.

    But the worst one was receiving hard copy pages that had been worked on by someone who smoked. I spent a long weekend bent over pages from which the smell of stale tobacco constantly wafted, feeling vaguely sick.

  3. Vicky McAulay

    Thanks for cracking me up. I would have thought that it was a prerequisit that a copy editor be well read, apparently not. Love "flop sweat", even though I’m not familiar with the term, I can feel it.

  4. Alafair Burke

    I already loved you, Louise, but this post alone would have sealed the deal. On first read (and oh yes, I’ve read it many times now), I thought, "Isn’t she worried the copy editor will see this post?!" And then I realized, whoever wrote these edits is NOT on the internet.

    My favorite recently was from a UK copyeditor who read specifically for references a UK audience might not understand. One of the notes was, "Who are Woodward and Bernstein?" My response was, "STET. See Watergate."

  5. JD Rhoades

    My CE’s on THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND and GOOD DAY IN HELL kept "correcting" my redneck characters’ grammar. But the one that really made me tear my hair out was the one on SAFE AND SOUND who objected to a character with a military background referring to having once been stationed in "Saudi," (i.e. Saudi Arabia and the adjoining theaters of operations). "That’s like someone who was stationed in Hong Kong saying they were in ‘Hong’" she snarked (for some reason I always think of CE’s as female).

    Understand, my little town is, among other things, a bedroom community for the largest military base in the continental US. I talk to a LOT of soldiers and airmen, as well as their families. Yes, that’s how they say it.

    She also questioned a scene in which a man at rest sat with a Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle across his lap. "That’s a big gun," she said, "could you actually do this?" I sent it back with a photo of a U.S. Special Forces guy in Afghanistan doing just that.

    My CE on BREAKING COVER, however, was a gem.

  6. JD Rhoades

    I can still remember receiving a report on one book that berated me for displaying ‘a good deal of comma fault’, as well as misuse of ‘verbs of utterance’. Smack wrists all round.

    Hee! Was this a British copyeditor by any chance?

  7. Karen in Ohio

    Well, this is what happens when educational standards fall by the wayside, and you get bloomin’ incompetents doing the jobs of real grownups. What a sad, sad tale, Louise. (But the cover is amazing! Congratulations.)

    I’m a copy editor myself, and although it’s not easy to edit your own work, I do use spellcheck, etc. when I submit my own writing. It’s inevitable that something slips through the cracks, which is why you always want objective readers. Once I wrote a three-page article for an industry publication, and when my free copy came I was astonished to see that someone had edited mistakes–dozens of them–INTO my article! Grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors abounded, so many that I pulled out my copy of the original to see if I had maybe gone rogue somewhere before I sent it in. Nope. It was edited that way. Aarrgh.

  8. Dana King

    (Note to author: “What kind of breasts do pigeons have?”)

    Recommended reply: Much like Beverly’s.

    I’d hate to cost someone a job, but your copy editor really needs to be pointed out to someone who can do something about her.

    Swear to God, when I have my monthly doubts about whether I want to continue trying to get published, it’s never the writing, and rarely what has to be gone through to get published that concern me. it’s what has to be gone through after a contract is signed that turns me off a little more all the time.

  9. Cornelia Read

    I had a newspaper editor in Boulder who inserted punctuation and spelling errors into every article I wrote for that paper–eighteen months worth of clips I”ll never be able to use. Also had one copy editor who had some sort of philosophical disgruntlement with my paragraph breaks. ALL of them. I was wishing for a STET rubber stamp by the end of that one. And a stun gun.

    My God, though, your responses to this idiot made me guffaw this morning–thank you!!

  10. Louise Ure

    Catherine, glad to have amused you this morning.

    Zoe, I adore the notion of a 9-day week. I could use one of those right about now.

    Vicki, I think flop sweat is actually a term related to drug/alcohol withdrawal, but I didn’t want to give this editor another reason to dislike the term.

    Alafair, I probably should be worried that the publisher or copy editor will see this, but since the quotes are all true, that’s fine with me. They should know what they’re paying for. And the Watergate ignorance is stunning.

    JD, she (he?? I always think of them as female, too) never heard of "stationed in Nam" either? But I’m definitely going to start using the shortened "Hong."

    Karen, they edited in errors? I’d be spitting if something was printed without my seeing the final copy.

    Dana, your "much like Beverly’s" is SOOO much better an answer than mine.

    Cornelia, my sweet … oh ye of comma and paragraph failures … I hear that Margaret Maron has just such a rubber stamp. STET, STET, STET.

  11. Melanie

    OMG, this is the best post I’ve read in a long time. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s so easy to think that every comment about one’s writing is correct, and this is a good reminder that not everyone knows everything.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Karen Olson

    This totally cracked me up!

    I had a very memorable stupid copy editor moment on Pretty in Ink (and keep in mind that I spent 17 years of my newspaper career as a copy editor):

    I describe the streets and bridges of Venice. The copy editor said that we couldn’t say "streets" because that means there are cars and trucks and there aren’t any of those in Venice because all the "walkways" are pedestrian.


  13. Louise Ure

    Becky, if they were using AI, that would imply that there was "intelligence" of some kind involved. I began to question that after the first few "Notes to author."

    Melanie, my sweet. No comment on your writing is ever valid unless it rings true to you. There are stupid critiques given all the time. (Although I fall into the category of believing most of the negative ones about my work.)

    Karen, that is too funny. Streets are only for vehicular traffic? Where do they come up with this shit?

  14. Barb Goffman

    Thanks for the laugh of the day, Louise. My three additions:
    In college I wrote an article for a newsletter and I mentioned Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. It was edited to Anthony! Lord.
    And a few years back in one of my writing groups, a dear friend of mine made a couple comments that I still chuckle over to this day. First, a described a character with dirty blonde hair, and she asked why her hair was dirty. Perhaps dirty blonde is a regional term? And then I had a scene where I described a character getting rug burns, and she said that that couldn’t happen because carpeting is soft. I still don’t know what to say to that one.

  15. JD Rhoades

    And then I had a scene where I described a character getting rug burns, and she said that that couldn’t happen because carpeting is soft. I still don’t know what to say to that one.

    Tell her I’ll be glad to demonstrate if she likes.

  16. Louise Ure

    Anthony Scalia, dirty blonde, rug burns, Barb. Priceless.

    JD, i finally looked it up instead of just guessing. You’re absolutely right!

    "☆ flop sweat
    Slang sweat that an actor or other performer gives forth when afraid of failing before an audience"

    Natasha, you’re not oudated; you’re literate.

  17. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Thank you again, Louise, for bringing laughter into my house this morning. Thank God this copyeditor wasn’t your editor. I can’t imagine this person ever getting the job in the first place.
    Makes me realize how lucky I’ve been.
    Your blog came as quite the coincidence, too–I just turned in my second novel to the copyeditor–this morning. What was that word again….oh, yeah, STET.

  18. Gayle Carline

    Wowser. Between the comments from your CE, and the ones I’ve been reading in the comments, I’m beginning to wonder what kind of test you have to take to get that job. Reminds me of a friend who admitted when she heard about the "wind chill factor", she thought they were saying the "windshield factor" and decided it was the temperature of your car’s windshield in the winter.

    My editor at Echelon was smart as a whip and delightful to work with. My editors at the newspaper (I’ve had three since I started my weekly column) have been hit and miss. The first one, grateful as I am that she gave me the job, couldn’t stop tweaking. Her tweaking either introduced errors (she’d change ‘child’ to ‘children’ but not the verb) or misspellings, or continuity problems. For my first column, she had lopped off the entire last paragraph. You know, the wrap-up? Yeah, nothing got wrapped that week. The last two editors have been very hands-off wonderful, and my current editor actually calls me if she has a question about what I’ve written.

    When the first editor messed with my stuff, I was torn. I wanted to call and tell her to either leave my stuff alone or work WITH ME on the edits. But 1) I was the newbie and didn’t want to be a diva, and 2) I understood that newspapers have tight deadlines and can’t always play nice with the editing process.

    I’ve written for magazines, newspapers, and now have my first book out, and the editing process has been different for all of them.

  19. Louise Ure

    Congratulations on the second book, Stephen! Who knows? Maybe this copy editor has better big picture skills than the micro-vision required for copy editing. But I’m not betting on it.

  20. JT Ellison

    I’ve had a variety of copyeditors, from great to so-so, but my all time favorite suggestion was the following:

    My version: He treated her like a whore.

    CE’s version: He treated her as if she were a whore.


    Glad to see this is universal.

  21. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hilarious, LU! I wish I could come up with rejoinders even a tenth as good… I usually either get so heated up I can’t even think, or (depending on that time of the month), weep all the way through my copyedits.

    Can’t we all at least agree on one universal rule – Never try to correct an author’s grammar WITHIN DIALOGUE?

  22. Louise Ure

    Gayle, I have untold respect for each of the editors I’ve worked with so far. It’s the copy editors — those grammar, comma, literal wordsmiths — that make me sigh sometimes.

    "As if she were a whore," JT? Ugh. Save me from proper grammar. That kind of writing would put me right to sleep.

    And Alex, I’m with you. I either can’t come up with the mot juste right away or I’m too chicken-shit to say it. Keep in mind, that list of copy comments has been sitting here on my desk for the better part of a year. And I never did reply to the comments the way I did here. Tactful or chicken? Maybe both.

  23. Kaye Dacus

    As both a published author AND a copy editor, it’s easy for me to see this and groan for both sides. Yes, there are some CEs who are definitely not worth the money they’re getting paid. But as a CE, I’ve had to edit a bunch of stuff that makes me wonder what rock the author crawled out from under because of all their factual/research errors and absolutely absurd spelling/grammar errors. (Not excusing either side, mind you.)

    I spoke to a college class this morning and one of the students asked about getting into the editing field. One of the things I told her was most important was that she needed to know the fundamentals of storytelling first and foremost—and the expectations of the genres, if she’s planning to edit fiction—and to know the difference between what’s an author’s style/voice and what’s an error. ::sigh:: If only every copy editor were taught that.

  24. Eika

    This whole post was sobering for me. I’m not published yet- on my third draft of a query letter- but man, I hope I never have to deal with someone like this. Though I know I probably will…

    Glad to know you took it with such good humor!

  25. Louise Ure

    Kaye, there’s no excuse for bad spelling in a manuscript. An occasional typo, sure, but not just plain getting it wrong because the author is too lazy to look it up. My heart goes out to the editors and copy editors who have to deal with that.

    But your advice to the class was superb: understand the basics of storytelling and the expectations of the genre … then the the author voice sing.

  26. Judy Wirzberger

    I would have posted this long ago, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I then thought of my elementary school principal and wanted to kiss her laced up black nun shoes. Frankly, my dear, I don’t know which was more entertaining, the CE comments or yours. Edit that – yours were.
    I think the Murderati gang should do a book on CE comments.

    "That’s like someone who was stationed in Hong Kong saying they were in ‘Hong’" — or someone in Viet Nam saying they were in Viet. ah er or Nam.

    Oh! Lordy. I didn’t know the process of writing could be so entertaining.
    Louise, you really need to write a humor column for MWA- not that you’re busy with anything else.

    Love Love Love and hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    p.s. Did a copy editor see your cover – she may wonder what all those poles and wires are.

  27. Louise Ure

    Eika, copy editors are something to look forward to! First, all you have to do is write "STET" and their suggestions and questions go away. And second, they’re a great source of stories for the blog, the bar, or your first bookstore reading.

  28. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, Louise,
    These are wonderful and beautifully demonstrate some of the behind-the-scenes things writers have to deal with.

    On this misty, gray day, I’m very grateful for the laughs, too.

    I think it was Susan Slater who had a copy editor that kept correcting "adobe" by replacing it with "abode."

    Oh . . . heavens to Betsy.

  29. berenmind

    Guys guys guys. Don’t any of you remember Albert Brooks’ famous scene in Broadcast News (1987)? The flop sweat? It’s fear of being a flop. It’s going live… on the air ….it’s getting onstage opening night and forgetting your lines…..it’s bare naked….no spell check and no copy editors……..no going back………you know.

    Here is some trivia about that scene: Albert Brooks revealed that when he first read the script, the scene where Aaron does a weekend broadcast simply noted "Something bad happens to Aaron on the air." Albert was watching CNN when a reporter he’d never seen before (and hasn’t seen since) began sweating badly. Albert phoned writer/director James L. Brooks at three in the morning and stated that Aaron HAD to start sweating profusely.

  30. Alexandra Sokoloff

    That was the scene that sprang instantly to mind, Berenmind, but I never knew it was Brooks’ idea. Now THAT is a pro – comedian, actor, writer, artist, human being, everything.

    Can you imagine having such poise that you could actually SUGGEST putting yourself into that scene?

    I am not worthy.

  31. tess gerritsen

    Sounds to me like you have a very young copyeditor. These problems pop up whenever the editor doesn’t share the same cultural memories as the author. Things we assume EVERYONE knows turn out to be complete mysteries to the younger set.

    Last year, before the new Star Trek movie came out, I encountered a 20-something woman who couldn’t figure out why I’d named my donkeys Spock and Scotty. "Why’d you choose those names?" she asked. It made me feel so very, very old.

  32. toni mcgee causey

    Louise, this was hysterical. Thank you for cracking me up today.

    I was tremendously lucky with the CE I was originally assigned for the Bobbie Faye books. He understood my rhythms and nuances and didn’t make any harebrained changes. He caught awkward phrasings, timing issues, little things like your cowlick above, and when he did occasionally find that was confusing, he would suggest a fix that almost always sounded exactly like my voice. I adored him so much, I asked for him ahead of time for the next two books and got him. (He’s in my acks.)

    Clearly, though, from your examples above, I was damned lucky. Your answers, though, had me in tears. I wish you had a whole book of your responses… these, and that one to Zappos’ are perfection.

  33. Karen in Ohio

    When I wrote my first book I asked my husband to edit it for me. He tried to change so much that I ended up sitting him down and telling him that *I* was the author of this book, and it needs to be in MY voice, not his. And then I reminded him of how little of HIS voice I’d ever changed in various writing jobs I’d edited for him.

    He proved to be trainable, I’m happy to report. 😉 It’s a cardinal sin for a copy editor to ruin an author’s intended mood.

  34. berenmind

    I was thinking of that. The age of the CE. But I am not sure that being too young to understand a reference is a valid excuse. Not even knowing that an Igloo is a cooler? Common now.

    Editors MUST be armed with a plurality of "cultural memories" gathered from their education, their experiences, their mental library of retained fiction, non-fiction, historical, ethnic, political and comedic works in all forms of art (Novels. Poetry. Film. Biographies. Fine art. Television. Radio.) to properly do their JOB. You cannot alter a writer’s words, punctuation, colloquialism or even SPELLING without understanding the unique perceptual umwelt the author has created in his work.

    On the other hand….age might come into play if, being very young, a CE might just think that she knows it all so she doesn’t research her criticisms or alterations for foundation. "I am not young enough to know everything." –Oscar Wilde

  35. Louise Ure

    I knew our ‘Rati friends would understand, Michelle.

    And Tess, you’re probably right about the age disparity. I remember Elaine Flinn telling me about her character driving an El Camino and her copy editor didn’t know what that was.

  36. pari noskin taichert

    Cornelia’s comment reminded me of a newspaper editor with whom I worked who is now a famous author. She took one of the quotes I’d attributed correctly and changed it to credit an entirely different source. The person I’d interviewed was furious — and, of course, blamed me.

    But unlike copy editors, newspaper editors don’t check back with you. So I was stuck.

  37. berenmind

    Pari. You’re right. You’re stuck. And anyway……how many times do readers ever look at those tiny little retraction boxes a week later?

  38. Louise Ure

    Pari and Berenmind, it sounds like Gayle C (above) would agree with you. I’ve never worked at a newspaper (except in the obituary department — "the morgue" — at the Arizona Daily Star) but would hate those never-before-seen changes.

  39. berenmind

    Oh yeah. I forgot to comment on "rug burn":

    Barb’s comment? That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

    J.D.’s comment? That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  40. BCB


    Louise, I love you. No, not like that.

    I really needed this laugh today (work this time of year sucks the brains right out of my head on a daily basis). But you know, in a couple weeks when this book comes out in trade and I buy it and am sitting here reading it, I’m going to be LMAO at some very inappropriate moments. I can’t wait.

    I think a good CE must be worth his/her weight in gold. As awful as it must be to get one who "fixes" things that don’t need it, I really hate it when they miss stuff. One of the most memorable (to me) misses was in a book by a very prolific mega-bestselling author who is one of my all-time favourite writers and whose name just completely escapes me at the moment [ahem] and it described someone riding behind another person as "riding pinion." And I thought, No, not unless they’re sitting in the damn engine, they’re not. Except there was no engine involved. I don’t know why this irritated me so much. It still pisses me off. The word is "pillion." And then, several chapters later, the same word was used incorrectly again. Twice. In the same book.

    I have a feeling that someday, some CE is going to hate me. Or love me. Depending on their command of the English language.

  41. Rob Gregory Browne

    Damn, Louise, I was going to talk about copy editors tomorrow.

    Beautiful cover, by the way.

    As for my copy editor story, I recently did a book under a pen name and when I got the copy edits back, the copy editor had taken all of my dialogue tags and changed EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM from "said" or "asked" to things like "promised" or "cajoled" or "intimated" or "expressed" or "exclaimed" and so forth.

    Every single one. In other words, Bad Writing 101. I don’t know if she was trying to sabotage me or she simply thought the book would be better that way.

    Needless to say, I changed them all back. But what a freaking pain in the butt.

  42. RobinRaven

    This made me laugh aloud. So funny! I am a writer and work as an editor sometimes. These comments are ridiculous. How do you not know what a bobblehead is (among the other silly comments) or have the decency to google it before writing arse comments? haha One should not comment on what they do not know. hah

  43. Louise Ure

    Who knows, BCB. It could have been the copy editor…or it could have been an author too full of hubris to look it up and just wrote STET.

    Sorry to screw up your plans, Rob. But oy vey! "Expressed? "Cajoled?" I think I may throw up.

  44. Louise Ure

    Robin, funny that "bobblehead" stumped her. My favorite was " I don’t speak or write Spanish but this looks wrong." Duh.

    And nice to see you, Billie! A book of these? I have enough trouble writing mysteries.

  45. Still Twitching

    I went through the WORST copy edits of my life this year. Many like you mentioned here, and some pages had over 180 markings, all pointless changes. She hyphenated tax return. She changed the names of my characters, changed the setting and almost every street name. The queries were just as dumb as your examples. I don’t understand why copy editors like this have jobs. If I did my job as poorly, I wouldn’t get paid. For me, the worst part was that I couldn’t get a good read of the MS before galleys, which I would usually do at CE stage, because she messed up the MS so much, I couldn’t actually read it.

    Thanks for this hilarious post.

  46. Allison Brennan

    I am so sorry I missed this yesterday! (As I was frantically finishing revisions to CARNAL SIN. Done. Yeah!)

    I should be keeping track of these things, except I complained about one copy editor and thus my new one is perfect . . . except from one little point. ORIGINAL SIN takes place in 48 hours. Yes, 125,000 words, 48 hours. It’s a thriller. I have lots of things going on at the same time. About half way through the book, it’s 24 hours, and the CE writes, "All this happened in one day?" Then about 50 pages later, "This is only the next morning?" I emailed my editor and asked, "Did you have a problem with the timeline?" And he emailed back, "Ignore literal-minded copyeditor. Next thing and she’ll question the existence of demons."

    My not-as-good copyeditor had one comment that sent me through the roof. I had a scene were a body was brought up from the river. It had been partially submerged and caught on roots at the side of the river. I described the scene where they brought it off the boat in a waterproof/leakproof body bag to help preserve evidence–which I described just like the one I saw at the morgue–and how it was covered. She wrote–I kid you not–"This isn’t the way they do it on television."

  47. Sylvia

    I’m catching up on my reading for the week and Louise your replies made me howl with laughter. Can one howl with laughter and if so, what does that sound like? ha ha!

  48. XV

    I caught part of your post on a friends blog, and headed over to read the whole thing. So glad I did! Best laugh I’ve had all day, and the comments just make me realize I’ll be in good company when I get to this stage!

    I did a big wig writers workshop out west a few years ago and I remember getting the comment, for more than one person, that snow would not crunch if you fell on it? And my response was, well if it’s so damn soft and fluffy, then how do you people out here manage to break so many parts falling on the stuff? Suffice to say my snow is still indeed crunchy. And I still have hope, (and a healthy dose of fear,) for my future writing career.


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