Staying in Rhythm (Copyediting Your Book)

When I’m copyediting, I get in this zone where I pretty much don’t want anything else to enter my brain. I only want to concentrate on the book at hand. I’m sure I’m not alone–it’s why the term revision cave became a thing. You really do crawl inside your WIP and lose all track of the outside world.

There’s a rhythm to copyediting. Kind of like jumping rope. Get away from the book too long, and suddenly, the rope’s getting tangled in your feet and everything’s falling apart.

But I also realize lately that being able to put my head down and work on only my book-in-progress is a real luxury. We all have families and jobs taking up our time, leaving less day than we’d like for copyediting. During the pandemic, I’ve been doing much more cooking and shopping. I have a young dog now who loooooves to walk. Etc., etc.

A few things you can do (and I’ve been doing as well) to keep the rhythm going in your copyediting job:

  1. Keep your book with you at all times. I always compile my manuscript and put it on one of my e-readers. I keep it and a notebook in my purse. Find yourself with ten minutes or so on your hands? You can probably read a chapter, and make a list of typos or phrasing changes to type when you get back home.
  2. Stop reading other books. This is harder than it sounds. But I usually stop reading other works of fiction during the time I’m engaged in a really close copyediting read of one of my own books. It helps keep the timeline of my own book in my head.
  3. Read like a reader. I’ve discovered that, while copyediting, you’re better off reading your own book like you read other authors’ work. You want to read at a fast enough clip that the timeline stays fresh. But you don’t want to just plow through it, looking for missing commas. You want to ask yourself questions as you go: Is this character acting realistically? Did another character drop out of the action inexplicably? Are threads mistakenly abandoned? Sometimes, you can actually find plot holes while copyediting.

And now, back to my WIP…

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