Blogger: Mary Keeley
You just crossed the last “t” and dotted the last “i” and now your current book draft is finished. Many a brand new writer wants to think they’re almost at the finish line, but if you’re a published author or a writer who’s been on the journey for a while, you know that you’re at the starting gate. The next three-stage editing process is where the next hard work is done because it’s when you will edit your book to perfection.
The three types of edits and what they cover are:
- Developmental Edit (also called macro, content, or substantive edit) addresses these issues in a novel: development of plot, characters and their motivations, goals, and struggles, tension (sagging middle?), pace, begins in the right scene, tone, and these in a nonfiction book: main theme clearly stated in the beginning, points build on each other to a convincing conclusion at the end, right approach for target audience, holes in the argument, and so on.
- Line Edit is a line-by-line edit that assesses clarity and appropriateness of language and specific word usage, POV issues, effective communication of emotion and setting and tone, transition problems, dialogue problems, use of clichés, redundancies of words and phrases.
- Copy Edit (also called proofread) looks for errors in GPS (grammar, punctuation, and spelling), hyphenation, proper use and form for ellipses, hyphenation, numbers, and format. In the process the copyeditor often catches unresolved issues from the first two edits.
A good freelance editor is worth the proverbial weight in gold, but choose one carefully to avoid disappointments like these:
- The editor edits out your author voice. Possible causes are that the editor didn’t recognize your voice, or he or she allowed personal preference to overrule, or your voice wasn’t defined well, in which case a good editor would have consulted with you early in the process.
- The editor wasn’t qualified to do the type of edit your book needs now. Like any of us, editors have their strengths and weaknesses. An author friend might rave about the editor she hired to do a line edit or copy edit, but that doesn’t guarantee the same editor is trained or experienced at doing the high-quality developmental edit that your manuscript might need.
If your budget can handle only one professional edit, the developmental edit is the one I would recommend. Why? Because the story is everything to the fiction reader and the life-changing message of the Christian living book is everything to a nonfiction reader. If your book doesn’t deliver on these, it doesn’t matter how perfect the line and copy edit are. A publisher won’t be interested, and agents know this as they review submissions or a client’s new manuscript. Multi-published authors know this too, which is why many of them continue to use the services of a freelance developmental editor before they turn in the next manuscript. They know they have to continue to please their editor at the publishing house and their readers with stellar books that reap great sales in hopes of getting the next contract.
This isn’t to say that the line and copy edits aren’t important. They are the polish that brings your manuscript to its full shine. A publisher won’t be interested in a manuscript that has POV issues or repetitive phrases or bland words. More than a couple of misspellings or grammar mistakes tell publishers a writer isn’t professional or ready for publication.
While writers, even multi-published authors, are apt to miss a big-picture issue that the trained eyes an experienced developmental editor will catch, it’s a little easier for writers to master copyediting skills. If you can’t budget the expense of a professional line or copy edit, here are several tips that will help you:
- What Scrivener software is to the writing process resources such as The Chicago Manual of Style – 16th Edition, published by the University of Chicago Press, and The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, are to the line edit and copy edit. Earn your layman’s degree by devouring them.
- Then read your manuscript aloud. You’ll be amazed at what your educated ear will catch.
- Perhaps you and a skilled author friend can line and copy edit each other’s manuscript.
You can almost count on the fact that you’re going to miss something because you’re looking for many things and, being realistic, you’ve read your manuscript so many times that your eyes are beginning to glaze. You just want to be done. This underscores why professional edits or another set of sharp eyes is necessary.
If you don’t know how to find good editors, ask author friends for recommendations, but be specific about the type of editing you want done. Do online research. Contact an editor who impressed you at a writers conference. If he or she isn’t available to do the kind of edit you want, ask for recommendations. Above all, know what you’re paying for when you hire a freelance editor. Interview those you are considering and learn which type of editing they enjoy most and are strongest and most experienced at. Some may offer first to give your manuscript a quick review, for a small fee, and then recommend the work needed to edit your book to perfection.
Freelancers have rates per word for each of the types of editing they do, so you can calculate a close estimate of your fee when you interview them. When you hire the freelancer, ask him or her to communicate with you during the process if it looks like the edit is going to be more involved and costly than originally thought. There shouldn’t be any surprises.
What have you learned in working with freelance editors? Please, no divulging of names in your comments. Do you feel you got your money’s worth, and if not, what would you do differently in choosing a freelance editor next time? How has working with an editor helped you to grow in your craft?
A freelance editor can transform your manuscript. But do your research and choose carefully. Click to Tweet.
You finished your rough draft. Now comes the editing process. Here are some tips. Click to Tweet.