Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. Let’s talk about editing.
I recently read a book that had a good plot. The story was intriguing. The writing grammatically correct. I didn’t find any spelling or punctuation errors. Sound like the person had a good editor, right?
Not necessarily. Throughout the book, there were countless repeated words. Here are two examples.
“Yardley stood outside the bedroom doors. Double doors, white with copper trim. She pictured Isaac in the morning, opening both doors and what he must’ve seen. She took both knobs and pushed the doors open, the way a child might.”
“Yardley knew she was lucky to be a federal prosecutor. The state prosecutors were overworked and had little time to help in any investigations or interviews. Federal prosecutors could pick and choose their cases and take all the time they needed. Whereas a state prosecutor might interview a victim once before a trial, Yardley could interview a victim ten times if she wanted. She could send the FBI to collect evidence she required and turn down cases she felt didn’t need to be prosecuted. As a state prosecutor, she wouldn’t have had the time to help Baldwin.”
While the author likely had a good copy editor or proofreader, he could have used a content or line editor. What’s the difference? Let’s explore the various types of editing.
Developmental editing. This occurs in the early stages of a book. An author has an idea, may even have a rough outline, but they need help putting it all together. The developmental editor looks at the big picture. They don’t focus on grammar, spelling, or punctuation. They do focus on the structure, look for plot holes, and help an author fix what’s wrong.
Content editing. This is when an editor digs deep into the story. The content editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Some things they do are:
- Inconsistencies with character behavior and/or speech
- Point of view issues, including author intrusion and deep point of view
- Redundancies or repeating the same information in different ways
- Ways to tighten dialogue or sentences
- Active vs. passive voice
- Confusing scenes or passages
- Overused words or sentences
- Suggest changes that can improve the pacing of a scene or paragraph
- Telling vs. showing
Line editing. As the name implies, a line editor goes over the manuscript line by line. Although the term is often used interchangeably with content editing, there is a difference. A line editor will look for things such as:
- Sentence flow
- Cliches and sentence fragments
- Help you clarify meaning
- Eliminate jargon
- Tighten your sentences by eliminating unnecessary words
Copy editing. Some line editors also perform the duties of a copy editor. But copy editing is for the finished manuscript. Copy editors look for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. The copy editor will also make sure your manuscript follows the proper style guidelines. (Note: most book use the Chicago Manual of Style.)
Proofreading. Think you’re finished? While copy editors and proofreaders often do the same thing, a proofreader’s job is to take the formatted version of your book to give it a final review. This occurs right before a book is released. Proofreaders do just that. They proof. Look for spelling errors and typos. They don’t change the content.
Overwhelmed? Not every writer uses each type of editor. Use of beta readers and critique groups can help with the development and content of the book. Some editors perform the function of line and copy editing.
A good edit can be costly, something many indie authors can’t afford. Publishing companies provide the various levels of edits, although they may not utilize each one.
What types of editors have you used? What do you find the most beneficial? Please share in the comments.