Fighting the Good Fight for the Metaphor of It All

The Covenant is complete! Book 3 in A Covenant of Thorns, ROGUE’S PARADISE, is now out in the wild, walking its wild ways. Thanks to all for supporting this re-release of my very first dark fantasy romance trilogy. It’s beyond wonderful to see these books finding a new audience after all these years.

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking about copyeditors and the arguments we have with them. We all have grammatical hills we’ll die on – wisely or not – and we want to know what yours is! On what point will you refuse to give way, regardless of how the copyeditor might argue?

(I feel I should note at this point that the author/editor/copyeditor relationship is a symbiotic one. Even in traditional publishing – all rumor to the contrary of authors being “forced” to do x, y, z – seldom will anyone INSIST on a change. Almost always the author has final say, because it is their book, and they also bear final responsibility. It’s in the contract. If an author commits slander or other blunders, the ultimate responsibility – financial, legal, and moral – rests with them.)

I, like most authors, have a love/hate relationship with copyeditors. On the one hand, they catch potentially horrifying errors. In fact, in the book above, the copyeditor corrected a character “peeing at her face” to “peering at her face” – something my editor and I had both missed and were hysterically relieved to have fixed.

We love them. We need them. As with all love/hate relationships, copyeditors drive us crazy.

I won’t fight about commas, as a rule. I really even don’t care about the Oxford comma. I know people like to make jokes showing how important that Oxford comma is, but in most cases the context makes it clear. I don’t get why copyeditors hate m-dashes so much, but I’ll concede in many cases. I personally find semi-colons archaic and not all that useful, but whatever.

You know what gets me, what I’ll really fight for?

Metaphorical language.

That’s what kills me (yes, LITERALLY KILLS ME) about many copyeditors is that they can be so freaking literal. Some examples.

“His eyes can’t really crawl over her. Imagine eyeballs rolling over her. Gross.”

“Can a cloud really look sad?”

“I don’t think this is a word.”

I could go on. The thing is, as writers, we’re often expanding the use of language. Dictionary definitions often include citations of first usage of a “new” word or expression. That’s because language is our medium and we are the ones shaping it. Copyeditors are on the side of enforcing the status quo. So a writer ends up walking the line between bending to the regulatory insistence of correctness as the rules currently stand and being the iconoclast who breaks those rules to open up new worlds.

Guess which side I’m on?

Yeah, copyeditors hate me right back.

But, I believe this push-pull is a part of our jobs, on both sides. We all want to produce the best book possible. We all love language and what it can do. I will say, however, to all the writers out there: believe in yourself and defend your words, because you are the fount of change.

Why I Don’t Care About Commas

BIQNbrsCIAEUWCUThe ceremony for my 25th college reunion was held in Graham Chapel, one of my favorite places on campus. I saw the Violent Femmes play here, back in the day. They put lights outside that enormous stained-glass window and made it part of the show. Amazing memory.

I thought I’d post about my reunion today, but it turns out I’m still processing what ended up being an unexpectedly emotional experience. On my way there, I was joking about writing a reunion book so I could deduct the trip and now I’m thinking what I have to say might end up being something like that. Perhaps this long-time set-aside-to-ferment narrative nonfiction book.

We’ll see.

Also  on the way there, and while I was there, and on the way back, I worked on my content revisions and line edits for Rogue’s Possession. This is my least favorite round of edits and most hated part of the whole writing gig. It’s painstaking and requires great attention to detail at the point when you’re completely Sick To Death of the story. You’ve been over stuff so many times that it all seems trite and dull.

With edits, too, there’s a constant struggle to determine what the right decision should be. My editor wants it one way. I want it another way. How can I please us both? More – it becomes this internal tug-of-war in sorting out whether I’m just resisting not having it MY WAY or if I have a solid foundation for fighting the alteration of my original text. This is exacerbated by the whole “art” thing, where a lot of times I can’t rationalize or articulate my reasons for sticking to my guns. I just FEEL it and there lies the boggy territory of sounding like a diva and being Difficult To Work With.

So, I do this rarely. But sometimes I feel I have to dig in my heels and say no. I want to keep this character. Or I like this line. The scientist in me hates not providing a logical defense, but the artist is happy. Believe me, Artist Me is much more difficult to placate than Scientist Me.

For this reason, I accept most edits. Especially punctuation and grammar.

You know those things people are always sending around Facebook, showing why commas are important? Never amuse me. Especially the ones championing the Oxford comma. For those who are not punctuation-obsessed, the Oxford comma is the one preceding an “and” in a series. It’s considered optional by most rational people these days. Thus it can be “apples, oranges, and bananas” or “apples, oranges and bananas.”

Yes, Mom, I know what the nuns told you. It’s optional now.

Personally, I like fewer commas. The Oxford comma is a waste of a keystroke in my world. Even other comma games, like those demonstrated in the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, leave me cold. The title is a kind of word play, thus the panda image. The comma placement supposedly differentiates between whether a panda “eats shoots and leaves” of plants or “eats, shoots and leaves,” suggesting it might dine on the plant, then shoot someone and take off for parts unknown. It’s a cute example, but this kind of this drives me crazy. Nobody would seriously believe in that context that the panda is shooting a gun. If they are that easily confused, then they likely have bigger problems. I’ve also got issues with a “zero tolerance approach” to pretty much anything at all.


I do understand that some people care about these things. I have an old friend who’s been a computer coder all his life and it makes him crazy if I fail to close my parentheses. Yes, it’s a careless mistake on my part. For him, that missing parenthesis could mean a week of work sorting through code to determine why a program won’t run. This is more than panda antics to him.

Really, this matches my approach to most things, such as housework: whoever cares the most is responsible for doing it. You want a clean kitchen all the time? Knock yourself out! I don’t mind a few dishes in the sink. You HAVE to have an Oxford comma? Fine, whatever. I will never fight a comma placement. I just don’t care enough.

I save my caring for the REALLY important stuff.

Like keeping “laughed” as a dialogue tag.

I don’t see why I can’t have that.

<end rant