What happened to copy edits?

There was a time when I used to read books and never notice a mistake.  Now, that could have been because I didn’t notice them like I do now.  The longer I write, the more mistakes glare at me in anything I’m reading.  But it feels as if books are rushed more these days, and more mistakes sneak through.

It’s easy to miss small mistakes.  We read over them.  Our head fills in what should be there, or we’ve rewritten a scene so many times, we can’t tell if it’s good or not.  Hopefully, our beta readers catch them.  Or our editor.  Or copy editor.  But not always.

I notice small mistakes in books I read, but it’s the bigger ones that make me wonder.  Where was the editor?

I recently read a book that was written in third person, but every once in a while, for no reason, the story switched to first person.  Not internal dialogue.  That, I like it.  Just the wrong POV.  It was annoying.  I’m assuming the author wrote the book in first person, and then decided to make it third person, but she didn’t catch everything.  Neither did her copy editor.  Not sure why.  It seemed pretty obvious to me.

I’ve gotten used to a typo here, a missing word there.  But the wrong verb tense?  A name that switches halfway through the story?  A subplot that just disappears, never to return?  It’s easy to do all of those things as a writer.   You realize you have three characters’ names that start with J and decide to change two of them to something else, but you miss a few of them, and the old name still drifts through the story.  An easy mistake to make.  That’s when you rely on your copy editor.  Or, I read a mystery/romance where the ghost of a Roman centurion gave mysterious clues to the protagonist, and if she helped him find where the bodies of his fellow soldiers were buried in England, he could find peace…but he never got it, because the author forgot the entire subplot when she got hot and bothered with the story’s romance.  An editor could have fixed that.

I think today, poor editors are so pressured, they don’t have the time to spend on projects that they once did.  That’s why writers have to find really good critique partners.  We should make our stories as perfect as we can BEFORE we send them off into the cold, cruel word.  I have topnotch partners.  I hope you do, too.

And now, on a completely different, more frivolous note, since I’m talking about our actual writing and how it’s edited, I’m curious what you think about using contractions in your stories.  I love them.  I think they make a story feel more real, more like what people would really say.    I even think they make narration or exposition flow better.  I’ve read writers (including one of my favorites) who never use contractions.  They always use “she would” instead of “she’d”.  And I can skim over that most of the time, but then it catches up with me and stops me cold.  It sounds too formal.  It slows me down until I force my brain to squash the words into contractions.  And then I do better.

What do you think?  Contractions or not?

Also, (and this is the time for a shameless plug), my 6th and last Mill Pond romance is now availabe for free on NetGalley for reviewers and bloggers.  If you’re interested, just hit this button.  Special Delivery widget


The Fall Solstice has come and gone.  Hope you have a wonderful Fall, and happy writing!  Also, if anyone has any questions they’d like me to answer, (if I can), let me know!


My webpage:  (I started a new, free story.  A new chapter will go up each week):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

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Also, if you’re interested, Marcella Burdette sent me a site with lots of links for writers: http://www.supersummary.com/fiction-writing-guide/





14 thoughts on “What happened to copy edits?

  1. I think with some authors, especially new ones, they were possibly inexperienced. I’ve read where some have skipped hiring a professional editor all together. Trusting their own talents to catch it all. I’m the same way, the more I write, the more critical I become with what I read when it comes to errors.


    1. Some writers say that it’s harder for them to enjoy reading because they notice more and more mistakes. I still enjoy it, but I want to have a red pencil and circle the errors. Part of the teacher in me:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lack of good proofreaders. Plain and simple. Publishing houses have cut back. Self-published writers won’t pay out for them. (well, some of us do). And you’re right, I recall a book by Steff Penney clearly rushed out to catch the Christmas Market that had several very obvious plot-holes in it that a good editor and a proof reader (and the writer herself…) should have spotted.ALL the reviewers on Amazon spotted them …and that’s why it is worth taking time and trouble to get it right!


    1. You made me think. Everyone in publishing seems overworked. You’re right. Fewer workers have to deal with more manuscripts. Mistakes are going to slip through, and when books are rushed, they don’t get the attention they need–from the author or the publishing house.


  3. In my journalism writing career, I made sure I didn’t use contractions, but now, that I write fiction, I need them — like salt and pepper in recipes– sparingly. They make a story and dialogue more immediate and realistic. I thought I might be the only person left in the world for whom typos, wrong verb tenses , etc. hit me like a ton of bricks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read a few books where the author switched POV, and assumed the same thing you did…written in one POV and then the author decided to switch to another. That’ a pretty big miss!

    I completely agree with you about critique partners. I don’t use beta readers, but a critique partner or two is essential.

    As for contractions, I think they make for better flow. They feel more natural.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, rushed freelancers with little training or experience. Over the years, I’ve worked with some great copy-editors, and some appalling ones who miss some mistakes but INTRODUCE other errors while rewriting my book willy-nilly (without asking permission). I’ve worked as an editor myself in the past, both commissioning and copy, and know how tough that job is. So I do have some sympathy when things go awry. But this new business of publishers subcontracting to freelancers, often at short notice and without any checks and balances in place, gives us books riddled with Johns who become Colins, and missing words sentences (sic, LOL).

    Re contractions, I never used to use them except in dialogue. Now I use them all the time. (Not least because that book about how to write a bestseller using an algorithm recommends them for top-selling fiction!!) However, they don’t all work equally well in narrative prose. Something cumbersome like ‘She should’ve’ looks odd on the page compared to ‘he won’t’. And it depends on the book. Historical fiction with contractions can feel wrong. Contemporaries without them, ditto.

    Great blog post!


    1. I never thought about a publisher contracting with freelance editors. And I never gave a thought to an editor ADDING errors to a manuscript while doing rewrites without permission. It’s happened to me, but not for a while now. I forgot. Good points. Thanks for your comments!


  6. I’ve really noticed a lack of editing in published books. Recently I read a bestselling novel in which the author used the phrase ‘she said flatly’ numerous times throughout the text. It stood out so clearly to me and was so distracting that I wondered why an editor hadn’t pointed it out. I know I tend to over-use certain expressions too, which is why I need a good copy-editor to go through it before publication.


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