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he writes books

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 23
Jun
2005

Ah, sweet stet

Company STET at workOn Monday I received the copyedited manuscript of Company. This means someone at Doubleday has gone through it with a red pencil and pointed out everything I did wrong: spelling, grammar, continuity, the fact that someone takes their sunglasses off twice without putting them back on in between, and so forth. This is intimidating enough, but on top of that they do it using arcane symbols that would look more at home if Gandalf was reading them off a scroll.

Fortunately I know a little Elvish, so I can usually work out what they’re saying. And they’re mostly right, so I tend to leave their changes alone. But if I want, I can overrule them, with the awesome power of STET. “Stet,” I discovered while editing my first novel, means, “Put everything back just the way I had it.” (Accompanied, one suspects, by the subtext: “Idiot!”) How good is that? When I discovered this word, it was like a gnawing, hollow place in my heart had finally been filled. Looking back, I can’t work out how I ever made it through a day without it. “Max, I tidied up your desk for you.” “No! Stet! STET, dammit!”

Copyediting also reminds you just how archaic the publishing process is. When I write a novel, I use a word processor, nice, proportional fonts, curly/smart quotes, etc, so it looks more or less like the final book. But for submission to my editor, I have to strip all this out, double-space it, change the font to that butt-ugly Courier, and, get this, convert the italics to underlines. This manuscript then gets scribbled on by various people (that’s me in the green pencil), and finally some poor schmuck types it all back in, thus creating a document that looks near-identical to the one I had to start with.

You wondered why it takes 12 months for a book to get published, right? I used to, too.

Comments

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Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 3439 days ago

Wow, Max, I knew about the submission guidelines for manuscripts. I assumed it was a combination of keeping old editors from finding out they're getting old by giving them something that looks like it came off an IBM Selectric, and maybe the comfort of an author sending a manuscript that isn't sold yet, since a world-processor file is so easily copied and pasted, distributed electronically.

I figured once a contract was done, the author sent an electronic file, an RTF or Word doc or something similar, and that this was manipulated by various people. PDF has great markup features, allowing permissions control and little post-it looking flags.

But then Chuck Palahniuk donated a final edit ms of 'Fight Club' to a charity auction, and it was in a 3-ring binder, I guess from what you say that the contents were the double-space-Courier standard format.

The format is easy to read and mark up, but to me, that's just a tool for getting back to the PC and making those edits to my real file. What you're talking about, someone keying it back in, that's something I thought went the way of the linotype for everyone except oddballs like Tom Wolfe who still use typewriters.

ScotchtapeLoser (#1421)

Posted: 3439 days ago

Maybe for your next book, you can write STET on the cover page before sending it off. Let them figureout if you are serious or not. If nothing else, it can be punishment for the horrid Courier font.

shalini (#717)

Location: http://www.kai-india.com
Posted: 3439 days ago

hey max. like you, i used to wonder. now that my first novel is off to print, the process is a little clearer to me. it's such a trip... at the moment i'm in the final lull - release date is august 1.
by the way, re: your manuscript - the word 'snickers' jumped out at me. made me think of peanuts and caramel. then i thought, given what your cover was originally supposed to look like, that maybe you were going for that reaction?
or maybe it's just me.

Austin (#814)

Quote: "You might be stretching."
Posted: 3439 days ago

I actually kind of like courier, but that may be because I've got a thing for typewriters, of which, in turn, I never use any.

Tim Ashwood (#595)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 3439 days ago

STET:
Etymology: Latin, let it stand, from stare to stand -- more at STAND : to direct retention of (a word or passage previously ordered to be deleted or omitted from a manuscript or printer's proof) by annotating usually with the word stet
http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=stet&x=17&y=12

JacksSmirkingRevenge (#1324)

Location: That place where Billy Elliot was comitted, England
Quote: "What can the harvest hope for if not for the care of the reaper man?"
Posted: 3438 days ago

YES!!! We get a tiny extract from company!

Rob2Kx (#1125)

Location: Canada
Quote: "Anything for laughs even if it kills you"
Posted: 3438 days ago

I took a dump on my neighbour's porch and wrote STET beneath it.

John Doe (#797)

Location: Live from Omicron Persei 8
Quote: "You're just jealous because the little voices only talk to me."
Posted: 3438 days ago

I think Courier looks rather nice. Or at least I should. I see it non-stop while I write code.

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 3438 days ago

Although I agree that it is not a rather attractive font, I like Courier because in college, it was easier to write a 10 page paper in Courier than in Times New Roman.

Kitta (#716)

Location: Perth, Western Australia
Quote: "Don't feed or spank the monkey"
Posted: 3438 days ago

It would have been fun to know about STET in high school. Whenever the English teacher made a correction you could STET it.

Matthew (#16)

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Quote: "Unicorn on mountain top. Wind blowing through mane."
Posted: 3438 days ago

Thanks for giving away the whole book, Max!

I guess I don't even have to buy it anymore now that I know everything about the contents of the story.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 3438 days ago

I suppose if I were in a facetious mood like most everyone else here, I could suggest that the title of your next book could indeed be 'STET'. A rollercoaster ride of completely illogical and contradictory tangents mixed together with poor grammar. A one-joke idea perhaps, but I'm sure that it would have a cult following to match the way the Nazis praised Nietzsche's work before too long. And even if it doesn't, who knows, maybe you'll take down the publisher with you on it, and have to put up with the one fan of it stalking you.

Wibble.

Machine Man subscriber gStein (#585)

Location: 127.0.0.1
Quote: "That's not change! That's more of the same!"
Posted: 3438 days ago

WHY???

you give me a little blurb of your book, and i'm CRAVING more... and it'll be out in HOW LONG? WHAT?? 2006?? I WANT IT NOW!!!

[i sound like that little girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory :)]

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 3438 days ago

Whoa... dude, is Company being written in present tense??

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 3437 days ago

I'm having to learn the Elvish symbols for some freelance copyediting work I want to do over the summer, and if I come across 'Stet' I'm so going to think of Company.
Also, I just remembered a time a while back when I was on the London Underground and I saw a huge poster advertising Jennifer Government. I was debating with myself whether to write my own extra recommendation on it, but I decided to leave the poster as it was, being that it already looked cool and persuasive enough. That has nothing to do with copyediting ... I just thought it was cool you have adverts all the way across the world in London ... woohoo! Now you have to do a book tour here... I might write letters to Doubleday instructing them to send you over here ... (only if you want to come, of course. It can get a bit rainy and depressing and fish and chips really isn't that good).

Machine Man subscriber Alan W (#1427)

Location: Spokane, Washington
Quote: "Corgis are like potato chips"
Posted: 3436 days ago

Has anyone else noticed that the markings around the -- make it look like an upside-down smiley?

Picto (#64)

Location: United Kingdom
Quote: "Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill"
Posted: 3436 days ago

Couldn't you just merge STET and AMEN together for soemthing like STEMEN or AMESTE or something totally dubbed like that? I mean, doesn't amen mean "so let it be".

Wait, now I get it, we're not being polite to them...

STET it is Max, STET it is. Genius.


P.S. Well STET'd (dictionary term? is now!) on the -- mark. I agree with voiderf.. I don't think they had a problem with it, they just had a bit of harm(ful) fun :-)

syrup6 (#1224)

Location: Arkansas
Quote: ""Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion" - Kierkegaard"
Posted: 3435 days ago

so, 20% of your time is creative genius and 80% is convincing people of it?

Ams_S.o.E. (#1425)

Location: Naptown
Quote: ""I'm dancing for you Kyle(?)" if someone can name the actor who said it and which movie its from (and possibly correct the quote) ill give them monies"
Posted: 3435 days ago

i say a book of short stories titled STET still :P

have an opening section explaining your battle (sorta) with editors and your new magic word. u could have all of ur short stories unedited by other ppl

u could all make a book of rough drafts for ur other novels

Tak (#995)

Location: San Jose, CA
Quote: "benevolent hacker"
Posted: 3435 days ago

really? someone TYPES THE WHOLE thing back in? That's ... sadistic. OCR anyone? Asking for the original OOffice file? Oiy.

Ruth (#288)

Location: Bath, United Kingdom
Quote: "Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper may truly judge what is sane."
Posted: 3434 days ago

They should emply naughty school kids for that!

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 3434 days ago

tues. 28 june 2005

STET AND COPYRIGHT, WHY WE CARE.

You know what I love most about this whole metablogging and comments thing? It's the fact that everyone pretends to be interested in the stuff Max blogs about. For the most part it is interesting, but just because Max has written two(soon to be three) very excellent novels, doesn't me that everything he talks about is interesting to everyone. Everytime I read through the comments everyone pretends to be interested. I do enjoy the blogs, but seriously people, stop sucking up to Max Barry, you'll probably never meet him or be his friend.

Now that I am done ranting(I thought that might get your attention), my story will continue.

"East, just keep heading east," Electik mumbled his thoughts aloud. "Something just doesn't seem right about heading east...Oh well." Electrik continued his way on a dirt path across the Great Plains all of the way to the Applation Mountains. After crossing the Mountains he reached a large barrier, between China and wherever he was(it's a huge mystery), knwon as the Bering Strait. How he made it there, no one knows, but he then realized that he could not walk across.
Suddenly a large walrus leaped from the icy water and said,"Who goes there? These are my icy waters no animal of any sorts is allowed to pass."
"It is I, Electik. I need passage through these waters to stop Red Panda. The whole world is in danger." Electik replied.
"Oh...well...I guess you can pass, but it will cost you." The walrus said.
"Really? You just said that no one was allowed to pass."
"You're right, I did say that...go away or I will be forced to kill you just like that polar bear. No bear can defeat MECHA-WALRUS!" the walrus was very angry now. Just then a lightning bolt flew from Electik's huge bear paws. The walrus quickly retracted his statement," You can pass, in fact, I will even help you on your journey." So the two swam off into the sunset across the Bering Strait. Electrik was one step closer to finding out his destiny...to be continued...or is it?...yes...or is it?...yes...yes...to be continued...

Well, it appears that the story has gotten worse than anyone could have possibly imagined, but I still continue to write it because I am desperate for attention.

By the way the whole ranting and insulting is what is called an "attention getter". You use them at the beginning of speeches and essay so that you get people's attention, and then feed that a whole bunch of crap to which they will most likely pretend to like whenever they talk to you.

In my personal life, I nearly died while in Canada. A tornado came while I was in a canoe on a rather large lake. It was a good thing that I had my life my life vest on or else I would be swimming(well, not really swimming in a literal sense, more like in a dead sense) with the fishes.
So remember kids, always where a life jacket when you are out on the water in a boat.

Well...I think that the near death experience has damaged my already poor thinking and writing abilities.
That whole metablog was really wierd. Wasn't it? I mean, even I think it was a bit strange.

Adam

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 3434 days ago

Applation, I have a feeling that it is not really spelled that way.

adam ford (#989)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "Pants Money = Good Money"
Posted: 3433 days ago

Holy wow, they're really rewriting the fucker, aren't they? Changing 'whisky' to 'catering'? Do they explain their massive changes to you in a separate document or something? I mean, when I copyedit fiction I'm all in a "this is all just suggestions" mode, not a "no you dick, CATERING, not WHISKY!" mode.

hm.

HAL 9000 (#271)

Location: Boston
Quote: "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me."
Posted: 3432 days ago

#989--take another look, green is Max, red's the copy editor... and Max, I liked the changes...

Personally, I am a fan of Courier, partly because I love old typewriters and computers, partly because it's monospaced so that lining stuff up works real well, and mostly because I really don't like Times New Roman (I just don't think it's a well designed typeface--I definitely prefer Bookman or Garamond or something in that vein, depending on what I'm doing).

William S (#485)

Location: North Carolina
Quote: "When the time comes, cut the green one."
Posted: 3432 days ago

> Applation, I have a feeling that it is not really spelled that way.
I believe it's appelation

HAL 9000 (#271)

Location: Boston
Quote: "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me."
Posted: 3432 days ago

In another one of those "reality reminds me of one of Jennifer Government"--Congress is apparently working on creating private toll roads--watch out if you take one of those premium roads, they cost an arm and a leg...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050630/ts_nm/bizhighways_dc

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