Incorporating another person’s edits into your work can be a surprisingly slow and difficult process. On the surface, it seems simple enough — correcting a typo here, fixing an improper piece of punctuation there — and as long as you stick to basic copy-editing, it is indeed no big deal. What’s more difficult, though, is dealing with edits that include changes, suggestions, and questions about the story itself. Take for example, this excerpt from the first chapter of The Blood That Bonds:
Not twenty yards away was a piece of art in chrome and fiberglass, black like his clothes, black like hers. A sports car unlike any she was familiar with. Certainly not the loud, rowdy, American Dodge Viper, nor any of the trim, mechanical Japanese imports. The lines of the car were — must have been — Italian. Two’s father was an auto mechanic, but this was a vehicle beyond anything she’d ever seen.
This is what it looked like when it came back from my editor:
And this is the final revision:
Not twenty yards away was a piece of art in chrome and fiberglass, black like his clothes, black like hers. Two’s father was an auto mechanic, and she knew her cars, but this was not a vehicle with which she was familiar. The lines of the car seemed Italian.
Them’s some good edits! The revised paragraph is not only smoother and easier for the reader to process, but we also cut out a lot of extraneous words and pare it down to just what really needs to be said. This leaves us with with more words available to spend on the important things, like characterization, “showing instead of telling,” and dialog. All good things, but it should also be noted that amidst all of these substantial changes to the wording lies the potential for the introduction of new typos, misspellings, omissions, and other errors. I hate errors!
Obviously, no book is perfect. You can probably pull any given book at your local bookstore off the shelf and find at least one typo somewhere in its text, especially if it’s a first printing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to eliminate them, and this is why any time I’m working on edits to a manuscript, I live in mortal terror of introducing new problems while trying to fix old ones!
There’s no real solution to this other than taking your time and editing with care, which is why this stage in a book’s life can be pretty drawn out. You’ll need to check and re-check, type carefully, and probably avoid doing your editing at 3 AM after a night spent slamming down daiquiries (we can’t all be Hemingway). You want to be awake, alert, and aware, and you’ll want to go slowly. It’s all part of the process, and it’s why people who write for a living laugh when others suggest that their job is easy.
The fear of introducing new errors into your work while incorporating edits is both tangible and legitimate. Fortunately, the benefits that those edits provide make it worth the time and patience required to make sure they’re properly integrated.