Thanks to Maryann for inviting me to the Blood Red Pencil. Not long ago, on my blog, I discussed dealing with three different editing projects. I also grumbled about using Track Changes, and Maryann thought the readers here might be interested in my take.
First, let me say I'm not saying Track Changes is a "bad thing." For editors, and for sharing information, it's an excellent tool. What I am saying, is that like any other tool, it has its good and not-so-good aspects. I have an exercise bike in our basement. It's an excellent fitness tool. Doesn't mean I have to enjoy using it.
With writing, some people love plotting. Others love writing description. Or dialogue. And there are just as many who feel exactly the opposite. But it's our job, and we learn to deal with the parts we don't love, since you don't get a book published by ignoring any aspect of the craft. Track Changes happens to be one of my "dreaded chores."
No manuscript is perfect. Editors are going to make changes. Track Changes means they're doing it right in the manuscript. That's their job. If there's a typo, they'll fix it. Did I hyphenate a word that shouldn't be hyphenated? They'll put it right. Did I mess up a pesky irregular verb? Again, no problem with an editor changing it. Track Changes lets you see everything your editor does to the manuscript. From their standpoint, it's a perfect editing tool. Despite working with numerous editors, and understanding the process, my gut reaction is still, "Hands off my baby."
Then there's the fact that it can be just plain tedious to deal with the changes. When I get a manuscript back from an editor, it's going to be full of markups. And it's my job to examine each and every one to make sure I agree. No editor is perfect. (Hint: To move from one change to the next, there's an icon in the reviewing toolbar, which helps.) There are also 'views' in the toolbar, where you can choose to look at the document as Final, Final Showing Markup, Original, and Original Showing Markup.
If the editor has removed something, there are boxes in the right margin. If she's added something there's a line in the left margin. Those can be tricky, because if all she's done is inserted a comma, it can be major eyestrain to find it.
I tend to take things a paragraph or two at a time, and if I agree, it's only a couple of steps to highlight the paragraphs, then click the "accept all changes" icon in the toolbar. (You can see some of the graphics on my blog post, and even more detailed explanations of the tool at this post from Jenny Hansen's blog.)
What about usage? I'd much rather an editor say, "current usage is email, not e-mail," and let me fix them all. Kind of "tell, don't show." Saves a lot of that red stuff in the margins. And, at the submissions stage, you need to format your manuscript according to the guidelines of your agent or publisher. So "helpful" editorial changes might not be so helpful if you have to undo them later. When it's time to submit, I can make blanket changes to things like font, margins, where a chapter starts on the page, headers, etc.
I've been fortunate in that all my editors also use the comments (love it!) feature where they tell me I should consider changing more than simple wording, spelling, or grammar. What gets messy is working in the document when they ask for more details, and you have to rewrite, insert, or move big chunks of text. Here, I'll work in a separate document, but when I replace the old with the new, it's going to create an explosion of color in the margin.
Track Changes? There are times when I'd rather be working out on my exercise bike, but in the end, it's my name on the book cover. What about you? Do you like to use Word Tracking?
Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. Her newest book, Where Danger Hides, is the second in her Blackthorne, Inc. romantic suspense series and is available for pre-order at Amazon now. While you're waiting, you can read the first, When Danger Calls. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.