Hi folks. I’ve seen so much misinformation out there regarding editing–what the different kinds of editing entail, and/or that every edit includes copy editing, line editing, proofreading, developmental editing, or a combination of all of these very different services. Today, let’s discuss the top 3 kinds of edits, starting with the most important, and highlight ways you can self-edit before soliciting service from a professional editor.
The King of All Editing is the Developmental/Content edit. When considering hiring a vetted freelance editor, this should be your first step. Not copy/line editing, not proofing. Development. A developmental editor looks at the building blocks (or foundation) of your manuscript, including plot, arcs, sub-plots, strength of characterization, and pacing.
After a developmental edit, you will be rewriting and revising to strengthen your manuscript to ensure a compelling read for agents and/or readers. Sometimes we know we want x, y, and z to happen, but when filling in the ‘how’, the story doesn’t make sense/falls flat. That’s why developmental editing is KING.
The self-edit method to try to strengthen your manuscript (and this should also be done BEFORE hiring a developmental editor, so they can really dig in to issues and not just scratch the surface) is to run your manuscript through Critique Partners (also known as CPs). Yes, Critique Partners, not just beta readers. CPs are writers with knowledge of fiction writing craft. Their role is to point out plot issues, holes, bunnies, and character issues. A beta reader’s role is to inform you of whether they enjoyed the manuscript and recommend it to a friend. Once you have run your manuscript past more than one CP, and have completed your revisions, your beta readers step in. After this process (which can take 3+ rounds of self-editing to nail, in my experience) you should do one more round to check for grammar/spelling/homonyms before either querying, hiring a developmental editor, or having the manuscript proofread (this applies mostly to those deciding to self-publish, or those who are going the Indi route with small publishers without in-house editors).
The second type of editing that’s kind of important is Copy/Line editing. Some editors offer these separately, some call both copy editing but do both in one package. This kind of editing looks at readability, style, syntax structure, grammar etc. All the technical parts of your working manuscript.
A good Copy/Line editor should have a background in your particular age market and genre so they don’t compromise the voice of your characters, by turning historical vibes into contemporary, or by stiffening modern day dialogue with their 100% pure academic writing background.
For self-editing, I recommend the ProWritingAid software. It works better, catches more errors, and is more in depth than Grammarly. When, after this, do you know if you need a professional? If betas/CPs are still having issues with readability, it’s time to think about an editor.
And now, to finish, the third heavy hitter is proofreading. If you need a manuscript proofread (which I only recommend for those of you who self-publish), you need fresh eyes on that manuscript, preferably a professional who will look at each line with a magnifying glass. CPs and betas will miss a lot of what needs to be fixed, because they can be miniscule issues that go undetected as our brains tend to correct sentences as we read. They should still catch glaring things, but by now you should be on your billionth draft, and all those eyes may have missed errors.
A manuscript doesn’t need to be proofread to send to agents or publishing houses. No one will throw your manuscript across the room over a typo. In fact, a manuscript never has to be professionally edited on any level to send to agents or publishing houses, though most writers do tend to look into Developmental Editing when rejections start rolling in. This is a very specific storytelling skill that goes beyond the technicalities of ‘language rules’ and grammar.
But if you do hire an editor, it’s good to know what to expect from the service you choose. Eg. Don’t expect a Developmental Editor to fix your typos, or a proofreader to point out a character issue. It doesn’t work like that. Also, if you decide to proceed with multiple levels of editing, ensure you follow this order:
- Developmental edit
- Copy/Line edit
Half your manuscript could change after a Developmental Edit, and you don’t want to waste any more time or money to have a manuscript copy edited for a second time.
And remember, whether you hire a professional or not, nothing in publishing is guaranteed, and no one should ever promise you success in exchange for service. Be safe, be diligent, and be sure to vet you editors.
Until next time.
Thanks for reading 🙂