Before I start, I'd like to say that there are many articles about this topic on the internet by more experienced and qualified editors/writers. I'm not going to be covering anything new in this blog. However, as this is part of my free writing e-course project for new writers, I will be using this as an opportunity to give a general breakdown of the types of editing I do behind the scenes.
I will be adding links throughout so if you wish to read more details about them, please click on them and do any additional reading on your own. If you wish to hire an editor, there are plenty on Fiverr. However, if you insist that it must be me editing your works after reading this blog, please send me a message. Alternatively, you can find me on discord or Instagram to ask about it. My rates are here.
Without further ado, let's get started.
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For the overview, please refer to the picture above. I think it is rather self-explanatory how edits are done. In the initial stages, your editing should not be focused on the finer details such as grammar and punctuation. It would not even be touching the choice of words, style and tone of your writing technique. Instead, your editor will be looking at the logical flow of your thoughts in writing.
Many writers will break down the editing process differently. Some will claim that there are three stages of editing and others, eight. If you want a more detailed definition of the sub-type of edits from the picture above, read this. There isn't a right and wrong breakdown of the types of edits but here's the general idea of how the edits were defined.
#1: Logical Flow in Plot
This is what the structural edits are looking at mostly. You can be the kind of writer who would write without an outline or a plan and if that is your writing style, there's nothing wrong with it.
You're going to have to fix what you wrote if it isn't something that makes logical sense. By logical sense, I'm not going by the logic we know on Earth. I'm going by the logic that you created in your book. At this stage, the work is very raw and not many things are fixed in the process.
I'd say that this step of editing is usually not very necessary for experienced writers because they usually understand how to pace their story and develop it accordingly. Editors normally skip the structural edit steps for seasoned writers who only need a second pair of eyes and critique's opinion for their semi-polished drafts. However, if you are a new writer and do not have a writing mentor to learn from, you might need this stage of editing.
#2: Content Quality
This is something that usually goes hand in hand with the above stage of editing. Content quality checks are usually done in developmental edits and in some cases, line editing. No, not copy editing. I know this is confusing so I will explain later.
What an editor is doing when they check the content quality differs from editor to editor. No, they are not going to tell you if your idea is going to do well with the readers. That's not their job, it's yours as a writer. However, they will give you tips on how to better pace your plot after you both agreed on how the plot will unfold over the course of your book.
In content quality checks, sometimes the editor would point out a particular scene that was written and suggest a rewrite in a totally different direction from what you've planned. Your first instinct might be to violently protest their professional opinions and argue with them. However, I suggest you hold it back and ask for reasons. If you still disagree with their views, you can explain what you were attempting to create in the scene you've written that they singled out.
Note that writing is subjective. Sometimes the editor can have personal opinions based on what they've learned, read and experienced when they advise you on certain things. It is your responsibility to listen to what they have to say, do your own research and weigh the pros and cons before accepting or declining their suggestions. You don't have to be rude even if you feel hurt by their comments. You don't have to always agree with them either. The editor-writer chemistry is important and it could take you a while to find your dream editor if you are a new writer. My first editor (whom I hired and paid) wasn't so nice. I didn't like her much even though I learned a great deal but my second editor was great so I stuck with her.
#3: Delivery of Ideas (Clarity)
This is where I explain the difference between copy edit and line edit. The delivery of ideas is broken down into two components. I will explain them a little more below.
This is the basic of the English language that you write in. Both copy edit and line edit will cover this aspect. Yes, this is where your editor zooms in to correct your trashy grammar after your ideas are solid.
Honestly, this part could be easily substituted with Grammarly, the paid version. It works just as well, if not better than a human editor doing copy edit. However, as a new writer, I suggest getting both the human and software for your first book to learn the differences. Grammarly can only pick out the common pattern but does not always explain how best to rectify the errors. That's where your human editor comes in.
Expression in writing is defined as a writer's style. Of course, there's nothing wrong with any writer's style but there are tweaks and room for improvement. Writing styles are fluid and editors who have read as many works as they've corrected will be able to tell you how you can improve reading enjoyment by sharpening your charm in writing.
This is the one thing copy edit does not do. Think of copy edit like a machine that assembled a car in a mass production factory. Think of line edit like a customised car workshop that builds the car of your dreams. Both are functional but one is more aesthetically pleasing. This is also the reason why line editors sometimes cross into the content quality department when editing. In changing some aesthetics, certain functionality can be affected and it is up to the writer to discuss it with their editor when that line is crossed.
#4: Writing Techniques (Precision)
The last step is polishing. By the time you are finished with everything above, there is only one last step to do. This is the proofreading portion that many software can take over. Grammarly, word checker, Google spellcheck etc. You can run it through several grammar-checking software and it will usually be better than a pair of human eyes.
However, note that the one thing your spellchecker cannot detect is consistency. A professional proofreader human will be able to check for accuracy that the editor missed out on and consistency in your writing style. Formatting might be included in the proofreading package but it is subjective to every proofreader. The proofreader should not be doing a lot to a nearly completed manuscript because it only requires fine-tuning. However, if your proofreader is struggling to keep up and you are seeing more edits than the words you typed, I suggest recalling your manuscript and hiring editors for the steps above first. You're wasting your money by asking a proofreader to polish a book that hasn't been fully developed.
You don't usually need an editor to do all the types of edits for you. Normally, an editor would take a look at your manuscript and advice you according to what they see. Sometimes, you're not ready for the proofreading stage. Grammar isn't everything.
A good editor would advise you accordingly. It could take you several rounds to finish the editing phase and a lot of effort on both ends. Patience and understanding is key. However, if you insist that you only want proofreading services because it is cheaper, please do not blame the editor's work when your published work receives 1-star ratings with reader demands for a refund.
You have been warned.