After putting your heart into your manuscript, it’s time to edit to catch those errors that, as a writer, are easy to miss! (Chalboard drawing by Shelley Widhalm)
Writing a book takes hundreds of hours of investment, but does that mean it’s ready to send off to an agent or load up on a self-publishing platform?
For most writers, there’s one more step that makes books more appealing before handing it over to two types of readers: the agent who will say yes, or the audience who will want to purchase your book.
That step is editing the revised manuscript, which writers typically do solo, then with others. Editing offers professional expertise on the big picture of story development and the small level of grammar, mechanics and punctuation.
Developmental vs. Copy Editing
Developmental editors help with the structure of your novel. That includes many facets, such as plot and character arcs, main and secondary characters, setting, dialog, theme, pacing, conflict and tension, logistics and consistency in things like character and setting.
The second type of editor is a copy or line editor who gives a close look at every line of your text to check for grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and other mechanics of style. Proofreading is another step of editing and is a final edit of proofs before they are sent to the printer.
Before hiring either type of editor, go through a few drafts to get your manuscript in the best shape you can (this will save you on costs). Write the first draft fast and furious to get it out, forgetting about the internal editor that will slow you down and waste your time, unless, of course, you find a big problem in your story and need to go back to plotting or the other elements of writing.
Next, revise the manuscript on your own for at least one round, then work with partners, such as a critique partner or group, to identify issues with plot and character arc, conflict and tension that paces the story, and scene development
If you need help along the way at developing the story, hire a developmental editor to help shape it. Or if you’re ready to send it off to agents, hire a line editor to give it that final polish.
Why Hire an Editor?
The advantages of hiring an editor are many, including:
- An editor will spend more time on it than a critique partner, since they are evaluating every line of text, checking for any errors in grammar, as well as things like logistics and action beats (a character does an action instead of “said” to carry along the scene).
- An editor is trained in and regularly studies grammar and knows about the different style guides, such as Chicago Manual and Associated Press.
- An editor is proficient in the nuances of comma usage, which is widely misunderstood, while also realizing there is individual style in punctuation that is part of voice, style and tone.
- An editor cross examines your text for consistency in character traits, clothing and eye color, plus makes sure the setting and logistics are consistent from the start to the finish of a scene.
Lastly, editing varies from editor to editor. Writers are individualized in their styles and approaches to writing and revising. Editors, too, will bring different approaches, backgrounds and experiences to your project.
For instance, I’m good at noticing things like commas, word echoes and logistical problems. I also am a writer, so I understand what it’s like to be in both worlds, that of the writer and that of the editor.