One of the hardest parts of being a writer is editing. You’ve usually spent a number of years writing a novel, or some other type of manuscript, only to have to go back and examine it chapter by chapter. Typically, that examination is biased and many mistakes are missed. That isn’t because you don’t want to find all the mistakes–every author wants their manuscript to be as perfect as possible–but rather, you become blind to the errors because you’ve spent so much time with the manuscript.
This is where a professional editor comes in. You can think of an editor as a pre-reader, someone acting on behalf of the eventual reader that points out confusing parts and developmental mistakes. Hiring a real editor isn’t for the faint of heart though. The feedback received will be frank. If your ego isn’t out of the equation, it can be hard to swallow the feedback.
Three Level of Editing
If you didn’t know there were three different levels of editing, then you may need to go back and work on your manuscript. When I first learned this, I did. The levels of editing begin with a broad overview of the story itself. Once the story is solid, a granular, a line-by-line edit is done. This is followed by a grammar, punctuation, and spell check before publishing begins.
The first level of editing is called developmental editing. This takes a high-level approach to your manuscript and checks for consistency in the story. It will look at ideas, characters, and the story arc developed and make sure there are no gaps. This step in the editing process can also identify opportunities for improving your storyline and subplots.
The second level of editing is the line edit. This is a sentence by sentence review of your manuscript. The purpose of a line edit is to look at word choice, tone, style, and flow. This is a very granular procedure and can take a long time. This is where most you will find most of the edits in your manuscript.
The third is the copyediting. This is your most basic level of editing and includes grammar and spell-checking the manuscript. With brain power and running a spell-check in your word processor of choice, this can mostly be covered. An editor can be used to review your manuscript for more advanced grammar rules that the word processor doesn’t catch. This is the last step in editing your manuscript and should be done after all other edits have been made.
Reviewing and Implementing Feedback From an Editor
As an author, this can be the most heart-wrenching part if your ego is in the way. An editor is paid not to scratch your back and tell you about how wonderfully you did, but rather, to show you how you can not only improve as a writer, but also, create your manuscript into a work of art. The sooner your ego is out of the way, the easier it will be to make those changes. It’s important that you sit down with the editor (or communicate via email) and review the suggested edits. Although it’s important to listen to the editor, as an author, you need to be on board with all the changes made. This is, after all, your book.
How Long Does it Take to Edit?
An author needs to know up front what they are getting into when they sign up for an editor. Depending on the extensiveness of the edits, the time to make all the changes will vary. It could just be clarifying some dialogue or ideas, to overhauling entire chapters. This may take a few hours or days, depending on how much you write. It will also depend on how many revisions you go through with the editor.
Sometimes though, the edits cannot be made due to a lack of skill in writing. For example, I once received a short anthology manuscript for editing. Upon review, I found the problem wasn’t so much in the editing, but in the writing. I notified the author and offered to put in the time in order to overhaul his short anthology, but at an increased price. The author declined, having me only do a copyedit and format it correctly. While it was sad to see the potential of the piece walk away, I respected the author’s decision. In such a case, it would be best to take writing courses and practice writing more. While it may seem burdensome in the moment, in the long run, it will save you a lot of money during editing.
Walking away from an editor just because you don’t like the edits they’ve given you isn’t the way to get quality writing published. The process is tough and not for the faint of heart. In order to publish the type of writing you see in book stores, you have to pay the price.
Why You Need an Editor
We’ve talked so far about different types of editing and the feedback implementation process can be like. Really, what an editor does is coach you. Just as in any sport, a coach will see your potential and help you get there–even if you don’t see it yourself at the moment. Sure you can work on a manuscript yourself, that is certainly recommended, but when you get help from an editor, you can expect to gain access to a skill set that will take your manuscript to the next level. Just as any sports coach would take his team’s set of skills and fine tune them. When your ego gets in the way, progress will come to a screeching halt.
A good editor will be frank and honest with you. An editor isn’t paid to scratch your back. They may tear down your writing, but it is in an effort to improve your writing skills beyond what they are. Even though it takes lots of time, effort, and work, working with an editor on your manuscript pays off in the end. If you have a manuscript that needs editing, here at Stitch Writing we offer those services. Feel free to check out our editing page.