Some years ago, I wrote tax law books for a national law book publisher. I’d practiced tax law in a big San Francisco firm for a few years, but the time and commitment were overwhelming and I wanted—I needed–to work on my fiction.

Odd as it sounds, writing tax law books was easier.

The process went like this: my editorial director assigned me a topic, say, the charitable deduction. I researched the topic and wrote the chapter. I turned the manuscript in to my executive editor, who checked my research and tagged the manuscript for structure, language, and citation of authorities.

The editor returned the manuscript to me, and I responded to the tags and made changes. When the editor signed off, he or she then turned the manuscript over to a copyeditor.

We cranked out books on unforgiving deadlines. The director set up a production schedule for the hardcover book with facilities on the East coast before I had written one word.

We who wrote and edited substance were attorneys licensed by the State Bar of California and enjoyed window offices in a downtown skyscraper. The copyeditors, usually English majors, labored in interior cubbyholes. Like most business offices, we had a hierarchy and the copyeditors, all brilliant and educated folks who were probably working on their novels after their day job (as was I), harbored a bit of a grudge toward the lawyers.

Writing and riding. The two words sound almost the same, don’t they? I’m a huge fan of Blackfeet Indian pencils. I like to jot notes with Blackfeets. A sharpened point glides a soft, fine line onto paper that erases easily. Best of all, each pencil has a teeny, tiny Blackfeet Indian riding on a galloping horse. Love that horse and rider.

When you think about it, riding a horse is a lot like writing. The rider (your mind) guides the brute force of the horse (your material).

During my childhood and teens, I rode horses, trained at an academy, and competed in shows, winning seven ribbons in my day. I studied under a professional rider; I’ll call her Mrs. Grant. There she would stand at the center of the riding ring, a stern, silver-haired lady impeccably clad in canary breeches, black riding boots, and a tweedy hunting jacket. She would shout things like, “HEELS DOWN AND TOES FORWARD, MASON, YOU LOOK LIKE A DUCK.”

I loved riding horses. I did not love Mrs. Grant. But, like my fellow terrified riding students, I desperately wanted to please her. And she was always, always right.

The grudge match between the copyeditors and the lawyers sometimes went the other way when a copyeditor trudged from his or her dungeon down the hall to a lawyer-writer’s castle. After wrestling a manuscript out of thin air, many a lawyer-writer took a dim view of his or her masterwork beset by a million yellow tags, all of which had to be addressed in the space of two or three days.

My copyeditor, a stern, auburn-haired gamine in a slouchy sweater and tweedy slacks, would deposit my manuscript bristling with tags on my desk. Within, I would find comments like, “YOU’VE USED THE WORD ‘CONSTITUTE’ FORTY TIMES IN THIS MSS. ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT THE CHARITABLE DEDUCTION OR ORANGE JUICE?”

My copyeditor reminded me a lot of Mrs. Grant. I did not love her, but she was always, always right. And helped make my manuscript a polished piece of work publishable in a forty-dollar hardcover book. Which is just about as good as a blue ribbon won in a riding competition.

So there you have it, my friends. Here’s to you, my copyeditors. Your obsession with usage and punctuation has become mine, and everything I’ve learned about how to polish a manuscript for publication I’ve learned from you.

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 3: The Shady Case of Fifty Shades https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/17/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-3-the-shady-case-of-fifty-shades-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 4: The Comet and the Long Tail Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-4-the-comet-and-the-long-tail-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 5: Authors’ Market Share Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/02/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-5-authors-market-share-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 6: Ebooks Versus Print Books Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-6-ebooks-versus-print-books-lisa-mason-sfwapro

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 7: Unlimited or Not Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/08/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-7-unlimited-or-not-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 8: Print Books in 2013 Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/13/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-8-print-books-in-2013-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 9: Amazon Vs Hatchett Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/16/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-9-amazon-vs-hatchett-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 10: Conversations with Author Elle Emerson Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/20/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-10-conversations-with-author-elle-emerson-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,” on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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