I've spent the past week going through the copy-edited manuscript of Defender of Rome. The MS is about three and a half inches thick and made up of 338 pages of A4 that contains, at the last count, around 110,000 lovingly crafted words chronicling the continuing life of Gaius Valerius Verrens, hero of Colonia, after his return to a Rome ruled by an ever-more erratic Emperor Nero.
There are a lot of vital stages in the production of a book, but the copy-edit is right at the top. It's a process that every writer has to go through, and for some it's a chore, but I thought it was worth giving you an idea how it works.
My copy-editor, Nancy, has a wonderful eye and the Classical education I wish I'd had. She came up with twenty major queries or suggestions, which isn't bad in a complex story of over 100,000 words, and an average of about three minor tweaks (cuts, improvements or corrections) a page, every one of which improves the book in some way. While I checked what she's done (was I tired when I wrote that the world 'spun on its access' or just stupid?) I made my own corrections etc, which amount to a 3,000 word document affecting around 250 of those 338 pages. I'm never sure whether to be pleased I'm able to make such a difference even at this late stage, or embarrassed at the amount of work I've had to do on something I once thought was the finished article. Again, every change should be a further improvement in quality, whether its historical accuracy or the standard of the writing. Bear in mind that this is after my editor, Simon, has taken the novel through a similar process, focussing on the storyline and the writing rather than the facts, and I've probably checked it six or seven times already.