We’ve talked a lot about various publishing technologies. Today I want to talk about editing technologies. Serious question here: How do you all feel about the Track Changes and Review functions in MS Word?
Here’s what’s happening. My first few books went through the editorial process in a completely traditional manner. That is, I sent in a hard copy of the manuscript. My editor sent back the copy with notes all over it and an editorial letter explaining the novel’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as details I ought to address. I’d revise it and send back another hard copy. This is what went to the copy editor, who marked it up. I would then go over the hard copy, accepting or rejecting changes, making more changes of my own, etc. Then the manuscript went to typesetting where it was turned into a book.
Over the last year or so I’ve been working with new editors at different publishers. These editors have been incorporating electronic editing methods. It’s now possible to go through the entire editorial process without a single hard copy. The editor can make “review” notes throughout the text in the electronic file. The copy editor can make changes electronically, which show up as highlighted marks, which I can accept or reject, or type over so it shows both our changes. (I still print a hard copy to use for the revision stage, because I find looking at the book in a different format to be incredibly useful. Being able to look at various scenes side by side and to scribble my thoughts with a pen help me think through problems. Textual problems like typos, repeated words, and so on jump out on the page when they might not on a screen.)
The benefits of this method are apparent: No paper and mailing costs. The process moves faster. The changes go right into the file without having to be transferred, with all the attendant mistakes that can creep in.
I see all these benefits. I like these benefits. However: Electronic editing drives me a little bit crazy.
I’m getting used to it. But often the notes seem invasive. When the copy editor has already made changes to the text, it’s harder for me to see what I originally wrote, to be able to compare. Because it’s easier for editors to make notes and changes, there seem to be more of them. Because I’m used to working with pen and paper, it’s harder for me to think about solutions when I’m staring at the screen — especially staring at a note that has highlighted an entire paragraph in red. All I see is, well, red.
Mainly, I’m a little peeved right now because I thought I was done with my current round of editorial notes (I had the letter, I had hard copy notes from the manuscript). Then I discovered, attached to the e-mailed letter, a Word file containing even more notes entered electronically. Sigh…
I think this is the wave of the future and most editing will go this way, for better or worse. I’m aware that many of my reactions are those of a luddite stuck in her habits and unwilling to make the effort to change. So, how do other writers who have worked with these functions feel? Do you have any advice on how to cope when I’m clinging to my dead-tree ways?