writing and editing

Which editor is right for you?

A lot of writers I talk to think their manuscript needs proofreading. Their reasoning is simple: They had a family member or friend read their story and they said it was fantastic. You may be thinking the same thing, and maybe you’ve written a best seller, but don’t publish without working with an editor. Let me explain. If you’ve been working on your manuscript for a while, you may not see the mistakes or the errors in presentation. You may not see that the point of view is incorrect, the character’s description changes three times in the story, or that there are holes in the plot.

If you’ve written a nonfiction piece, you might not have considered what your audience knows about the subject, You may not have included metric measurements, or be aware that metrics are routinely included in craft books and cookbooks. If you’ve researched your manuscript and have included quotes or endnotes, you may not have used the correct citation and endnote format, or maybe you didn’t include endnotes at all.

An editor can help you with all of these, but you need to know what kind of editor to ask for that help and when. There are five different stages of editing and different types of editors work in these stages. These stages are:

Manuscript evaluations: Some editors love doing manuscript evaluations. I do, In a manuscript evaluation, I read the whole manuscript and take notes while reading. Then I write a report about the positives, things that worked, and the areas that need work. If it’s a fiction piece, I look at audience, setting, point of view, character development, plot, and ,theme. I also aske the writer what they’d like me to look for.If it’s a nonfiction piece, I again consider audience, the process being discussed, the terms used, the directions that are included, and the finished product. I also ask the author for the things they want me to look for. In both of these, I do not correct grammar errors, but I will make a comment and point out some of the errors.

Developmental editing: This is the second stage in the editing process. In developmental editing, editors focus on the big picture. They look at organization and presentation of theideas. Developmental editors look at structure, character, plot, and form. They don’t look at sentence level errors, such as punctuation, capitalization, or spelling errors. They’remainly interested in helping you meet audience needs.

Line editing: Some editors focus exclusively on line editing and some authors seek out line editors to help them present their messages. A line editor focuses on style, flow, and readability. They look at every word in a sentence and determine if those words help the construction and presentation of each sentence. Line editors focus on the construction of sentences, paragraphs, and scenes to make sure they’re as effective as they need to be to get the author’s point across. This type of editing is called stylistic editing and does not focus on grammar, mechanics, or spelling.

Copyediting: This is the fourth stage in the editing process. Copyeditors look for and correct errors fix errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, consistency, and
word usage while preserving your meaning and voice. Copyeditors edit using the Track Changes function in Word and use Chicago Manual of Style 17th ed and online. They also use Merriam-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition and online.

When I edit children’s books, cookbooks, and craft books, I use the style guides that are helpful in those genres.

Proofreading: This is the last stage in the editing process. Proofreaders help an author when their manuscript is almost ready for publishing. Proofreaders look for things and errors that have been overlooked. They look for glaring errors, typos, inconsistencies, spelling errors, capitalization errors, errors in mechanics and grammar, dropped or mitted text, and formatting errors. Proofreaders don’t rewrite sentences, make developmental editing comments, or suggest changes in organization. These errors are commented on and corrected in the copyediting stage.

I hope this explanation is helpful. The next time you need an editor’s help you will understand what each phase of editing focuses on. You will also understand how editors working in these editing phrases differ and which editor is right for you. If you have any questions, ask. I help authors with manuscript evaluations, developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Let’s talk about how I can help you.

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