I don't think anyone has said this before but writing is hard. I know, I'm breaking new ground here. Alas, it is true.
You may not believe me if you have read one of my newsletters but these lovingly-lathed sentences do not travel in a straight line from my thought brain, through my fingers onto the keyboard and sparkle, diamond bright, on the screen. They are the result of being rewritten at least once. If not for spelling and grammar (I do honestly aspire to be within spitting distance of The Elements of Style) then for basic comprehension. You would think using a modest vocabulary to relate a boring anecdote about going to the shops would be easy to get over in less than five hundred words. Not so. Not for me, anyway.
This was underlined (in red ink) when I received a copyedited script of my next graphic novel. It was an uncomfortable experience knowing that my silly fantasy story had been pored over in detail by a grown up professional. They had read my dumb jokes and cast their eye over my doubtful punctuation. They must think I'm a complete idiot.
Copyediting is the art of making a text ready for print by making sure it is clear, consistent, correct and complete. Not only the proper usage of language but that story points are consistent throughout. If the hero starts the story driving a red car then it doesn't randomly change colour part way through. This is easier to do when it is prose and complete text is there. It's a bit more complicated with comics as the art and words have such a dynamic relationship.
Nowadays the copyedited script is sent as a .doc file where the changes are annotated and further electronic notes are added by the editor. What is grammatically correct sometimes conflicts with intent and meaning. That is where a good editor helps decide what is the best option.
When I first worked for a book publisher a decade ago it was still done the old school way. Pages were printed out and red squiggles written on top. Copyediting has a symbology all of its own and I was completely flummoxed on my first encounter with it. This level of attention to detail had not been present in the wild and woolly world of independent comics that I was used to. I confessed to my editor that I was out of my depth and they patiently explained the meaning of the obscure crimson hieroglyphs.
Despite my doubts, the dumb jokes in my new book still work when they are paired with the artwork. It also highlights one of the pointless arguments that erupt with tedious frequency within the comic world about who is the most important, the writer or the artist. This is an argument I have in my own head when the writer part of my brain demands something (horses, cars, humans with recognisable facial expressions) that the artist part finds difficult to deliver.
Like herpes, that argument will continue to flare up periodically, but the truth remains. Writing is hard. Drawing is writing. And drawing is hard.
Rejoice! The Book Tour, or Autor en Gira will be available in Spanish from Nuevo Nueve in a handsome hardback with, swoon, one of those ribbons as a bookmark. I love those. Out 18th October.
The Book Tour (in English) is up for Book of the Year at the Harveys this weekend. It's probably too late to vote for me if you haven't already. To think, we coulda been pals.
I have books out in the world, Kerry and the Knight of the Forest & the Eisner nominated The Book Tour. Support my award nominated efforts through my store – digital comics – patreon or by leaving a positive review online.