7 days, 344 pages

Okay. The copy-edited manuscript of Fallout* is 344 pages. I have seven days to answer all queries, tighten and snip, brush it up, turn it around, and send it back to Scholastic. If I commit to at least fifty pages per day, I will make my goal.
We leave for the beach in seven days. I have lots to do before we go, but the most important work-job is getting this manuscript back so everyone at Scholastic who's involved with this book can keep going, and we can make our publication deadlines.
Yesterday I read through the copy edits, page by page. They are indeed rigorous, and I do appreciate that. A thorough, thoughtful copy edit elevates a book, and I am lucky in this regard.

Some queries are easier than others to answer:

p. 12: "Okay with this transposition? For flow only."

Some are reteaching me punctuation:

p. 13: "Added comma okay? Franny has only one brother."

And some are going to require heavier lifting:

p. 6: "Cannot verify material. Need source."

Gad, I hope I have it. There are lots of these heavier lifting queries. There are many hundreds of queries overall. I'll share some of them in this next seven days, so I can stay connected as I burrow down into this novel for the last time. I know many of you are teachers who are using the blog this year with your students as part of your writing program, and I'm hoping this will be useful. Thanks for bringing me into your classroom this year! Now:

On p. 10 I have written:

"Mrs. Rodriguez wears square shoes with thick soles and glasses on a beaded string around her neck."

The copy editor's query is: Should this be "square-toed" shoes? "Square," in this time frame, could mean "uncool," as opposed to an actual description of the shoes, which I think is the author's intention.

Yes, that is the author's intention. But I don't know that Franny would think to say "square-toed" -- she's frustrated right now, and she's eleven, and I need to stay true to her voice.

What do you think, readers? You haven't read the book, but as a reader coming to this line in the story, would you bump over "square shoes" or would you get it in context?
I have a hundred of these queries to answer today in the first fifty pages of the newly titled novel, Fallout.

* Yes, Fallout. You all shared such fantastic title ideas -- thanks for all the mail on the title change for this novel. You were much more creative than I was! In the end, Scholastic fell for Fallout the hardest, and as I live with it, I'm liking it more and more as well. Hope you will, too.

We'll talk title more, later. For now, back to copy edits. One last query for you, from page 21:

I wrote: "... and Tom slugs Jimmy in the arm. 'Dork!'"

And the copy editor has queried: This word was coined in 1967, per Web 11. Reword for time continuity? Perhaps "jerk"? Or even better, "nerd," which seems to have been coined by Dr. Seuss in If I Ran the Zoo in 1951.

Remember when we had this discussion, waaaay back here? An entire year ago! And, if you read the comments, you'll see that Walter Mayes was correct. As always.

So readers: what say you? Jerk? Nerd? Something Else? Square shoes? Square-toed? And could you please go find the sources for the quotes and passages I need to verify?

Send vibes, at least, would you? I'll check in every day.

Seven days, 344 pages, one pink chair. Go.


  1. Well, I was right (as always), but not for the right reason. I do think "nerd" is the perfect term. I also think the "square-toed" issue can be resolved with a compromise--call them "squarish."

  2. I bow to Walter's genius, and also to your story-telling. Still following your journey a whole year later, and loving every step!

  3. Er, I'm not so sure "nerd" is the right term. It would be if it hadn't picked up a definite positive spin lately (see Green, John. Nerdfighters.) I'm not sure younger readers will realize the aura it had in the 1960s. "Jerk" on the other hand, still means the same thing. And then there's "geek."

    As for the shoes, what about "squared-off?"

  4. P.S. This is a great post for someone like me. I teach a class in copyediting and I'll be asking my students to take a look at this entry to see what real copyedits for novels look like.

  5. It's 9pm as I'm writing this. Still haven't finished my fifty pages, what with everything else happening here today, but will stay up until it's done. Will likely stet the shoes (keep as-is), as I think kids will get this in context. Still debating about nerd... and I, too, bow to Walter's genius. How can you not? :> Thanks for reading and following along, Melodye, and yay for sharing with your students, Kathy! Thanks. You're teaching a class in copyediting (one word?) - I'm impressed. It's a special skill, that's for sure.

  6. I'm new to this, but I do teach 4th graders(9 going on 10yr.olds) I remember using the word "creep" for people I didn't like and I was in grade school in the sixties. Nerd seems like it came into my usage in the 70's, but it could work. As for the shoes... the kids will get it. If you add too much specific description it will sound like a grown up wrote it. I taught 6th graders for a decade and they are prone to brief descriptions. Trust yourself. In all your other books, your voice is BANG ON.
    I enjoy seeing the comments. Thanks for adding them back into the blog.

  7. Thanks, Leslie. I appreciate your thoughts. Glad to hear your voice on the blog.


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