This week’s guest is author Tom Pitts, answering the question: Who wins when you and your copy editor or proofreader disagree about a word, a spelling, a term of slang, etc? Do you sometimes choose to lose a battle in order to win a larger war?
Tom’s a friend who grew up in Canada and now lives in San Francisco. He’s the author of the novels Coldwater, 101, American Static, and Hustle, as well as the novellas Knuckleball and Piggyback, and numerous short stories. If you haven’t read his stuff, you should. You can find him here.
by Tom Pitts
When I began writing, I’d go to the mat on some of these issues. I’d usually claim the correction would upset the rhythm of the line. Goes to rhythm, your Honor. It’s my song and I’ll sing it however I want, damn it. Nowadays, I’m a lot more open to input. Defer to those who know better. That’s a lesson I think we learn in all aspects of life, not just craft. I’ll roll with Bob Dylan on this one: I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
I mean, there’s always room for interpretation. Editors will often go to great lengths to not repeat words, but some of my background is in songwriting and lyrics and sometimes repetition is vital to drive home an image or feeling. But I have to stand back and take a hard look at any suggestion. When an editor offers a change, you must be objective, take yourself out of the creative position. You have to become the reader, the publisher, the future.
Always? Hell no. Especially if it’s colloquial and in speech. And my characters certainly aren’t the most eloquent in the world.
What we’re talking about here is copy-editing mostly, not the story-bending feedback that causes dreaded rewrites. And with indie-publishing, it’ll usually be the author, not the publisher who gets the last word. So take this responsibility seriously. Those cocky choices you make as you click your way through the manuscript will stay just as they are in the published work, long after you’ve grown up and learned that you’re not always right. Besides, how long do you want to argue if it’s “till” or “‘til”? Sometimes you just gotta go with “until,” you know?