Editing, Writing Tips

Four Basic Types of Editing

Happy December, everyone! This would usually be the time of the month when I’d tell you about my goals for December and January, but I’m going to postpone so I can start fresh with some New Year’s resolutions. Today, I’m going to expand on last week’s post, Top 5 Tips for Selecting an Editor, and go into a little more detail about the kinds of editing available to authors: Content, or Developmental Editing, Line Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading.

Some of you may be wondering whether you need all four of these services. I’m here to tell you that yes, you do. As you will see, each service is unique in the ways it enhances your manuscript, and neglecting to use it may leave you with a less than desirable final product. That does not, however, mean you’re automatically going to need to search for four different editors all on your own.

If you are contracted by a traditional publishing house, they’ll send your manuscript to various in-house editors, who will work with you to complete each step before publication. If you are self-publishing, many freelancers, like myself, offer bundles that include two or more of the services. Look for the option that works the best for you.

NOTE: DO NOT query an agent with a completely unedited manuscript. Just because you will go through the steps again once you have a book contract, this does not mean agents don’t expect your book to be polished ahead of time. They’re not looking for perfection, but, like editors, they also don’t have time to wade through endless amounts of first drafts.

Now that we understand each other, onto the definitions.

Content/Developmental Editing: This is the largest and most in-depth form of editing. It will often take the longest and it may result in heavy revisions or rewrites. If you request a developmental edit, or manuscript critique, the editor is going to give you feedback on the overall plot, pacing, characterization, and structure. They will point out things that don’t make sense or are underdeveloped, tell you if the story is progressing too fast or too slow, let you know if the tale is realistic, believable, relatable etc. This is the first type of editing that you’re going to go through and if you don’t take any of the rest of the advice in this post, do not skip this phase. It will be a lot of work, but you’ll learn so much and your book will be leaps and bounds stronger for it.

Line Editing: Line editing is equally in-depth, but focuses on the more technical side of writing. In this phase, editors make sure you don’t switch from past tense to present, or tell the story in first person for half of the book and in third after the climax, etc. They will also help you on a more specific level. If a sentence is four lines long before a break, the line editor will help you split it. If dialogue is written too formally or in an incorrect dialect for the character, line editing is the time to reign it back in.

Copy Editing: Copy editors and proofreaders often get confused for one another because there is a lot of overlap in what they do. The main difference is that copy editing is the first line of defense and proofreading is the final checkpoint before the book is thrust into the world. A copy editor makes sure that the manuscript follows all the grammar rules desired by the publishing house or the manual of style the author adheres to (usually it’s the Chicago Manual of Style), and that all of the stylistic choices made by the author are consistent. For example, if you name a species Centurians, but then you accidentally call them Cyclops or Centaurs one-fourth of the way through the book, the copy editor will fix that. If you purposely leave snake lowercase to refer to the animal, and you use Snake with a capital s as someone’s nickname, the copy editor will double-check those capitalizations to make sure the reader can keep them straight.

Proofreading: As I said before, they are the final pair of eyes in case the copy editor missed something. They go through every sentence with a fine-tooth comb to make sure there are no typos or misused words or phrases.

If you need an editor, check out my services HERE. Have a great weekend!

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