The Easy-Peasy, Lemon-Squeezy Guide to Types of Editing

Confused by all the names and types of editing out there? Me, too! So, to be helpful (and clear up the confusion in my head), here are the nitty-gritty basics about editing stages for fiction and non-fiction books alike.

 

Developmental Editing addresses a manuscript’s soul.

What is it? Developmental Editing (also known as structural editing, project editing, chapter-level editing, or book doctoring) focuses on big-picture items like organization, flow, market suitability, subject or plot execution, reading ease, pacing, characterization, point of view, and dialogue.

Who needs Developmental Editing? Writers that are:
• New to writing.
• Unfamiliar with the development of book-length works.
• Unsure if their idea is evolving correctly.
• Tired of critique partners and/or beta readers telling them the book/story isn’t working for them.
• Trying a new genre.
• Looking to develop a specific, signature style.
• Serious about succeeding as an author.

What does a Developmental Editor look for? Things like:
• Logical order, flow, and consistency
• Balanced structure and pacing
• Clear subject or plot development, i.e., ensure a compelling exposition, development, and resolution
• Interesting characters with clear and believable goals, motivations, and conflicts (GMCs)
• Effective content, organization, and presentation
• Overall marketability based on similar works

Best time to use a Developmental Editor? Upon completion of first draft.

How to save money on Developmental Editing? Have Developmental Editor review a book outline before first draft is completed.

Timing? Developmental Editing is extensive, encompassing, and time-intensive. Don’t be surprised if an editor requires four to six weeks for initial manuscript review. Timing after that depends upon subsequent drafts and reviews.

What to prepare for?
• Ego bruising
• Subject, story and/or plot thread redevelopment
• Additional research
• Character(s) redevelopment
• Rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting
• Writing a whole new draft

Caution… Beware of a Developmental Editor that:
• Only gives positive feedback. Nobody’s writing is perfect. Nobody’s .
• Doesn’t offer to brainstorm and/or contribute to manuscript solutions.
• Rewrites large sections of manuscript themselves.

FYI: Don’t be afraid to question an editor’s judgment. Listen to what she/he has to say based on his/her professional expertise, consider the suggestion(s), and discuss it with the editor.  However, if the recommendation(s) chafes your creative juices, disregard it. Your manuscript is your story, and the final decision on any changes is yours.

 

Content Editing fine-tunes a manuscript’s soul.

What is it? Content Editing (also known as substantive editing) seeks to tweak a manuscript after an author finishes what she/he believes is the final draft.

Who needs Content Editing? Writers that are:
• Finished with a final draft.
• Confident that their story didn’t need a developmental editor.
• Ready to submit their manuscript to an agent or publishing house or begin the independent publishing process.
• Working with an agent or publisher interested in the manuscript but doesn’t feel it’s ready yet.
• Dealing with rejection by several agents and/or publishers.
• Independently published but are only receiving bad reviews.
• Competent with the development of book-length works.
• Looking for a second opinion or second pair of eyes after a Developmental Edit.
• Serious about succeeding as an author.

What does a Content Editor look for? Some same things a Developmental Editor does and a few more, like:
• Logical order, flow, and consistency
• Clear subject or plot development, i.e., ensure a compelling exposition, development, and resolution
• Balanced structure and pacing
• Content relevancy an
• Well-developed arguments
• Accurate and sensible presentation
Readability
• Story-thread resolution
• Resonating character arcs
• Carry-thru and fulfillment of goals, motivations, and conflicts (GMCs)
• Strong secondary characters
• Logic errors
• Head-hopping confusion
• Romance satisfaction (if applicable)
• Consistent world-building (if applicable)
• Red herrings and mystery satisfaction (if applicable)

Best time to use a Content Editor? After completing the final author draft (and if you haven’t used a Developmental Editor).

How to save money on Content Editing? Work closely with a Developmental Editor to produce a strong manuscript.

Timing? If you invested in Developmental Editing, the Content Editing stage should take two to three weeks. If you skipped Developmental Editing, count on four to six weeks for this stage.

What to prepare for?
• Ego bruising
• Scene and chapter reworks
• Order, flow, and/or presentation readjustments
• Main- and secondary-character fine-tuning
• Additional research

Caution… Beware of a Content Editor that:
• Suggests significant story changes that contradict the Developmental Editor (if used or if using a different editor for Content Editing).
• Only gives positive feedback. Nobody’s writing is perfect. Nobody’s.
• Rewrites large sections of manuscript.

FYI: Don’t be afraid to question an editor’s judgment. Listen to what she/he has to say based on his/her professional expertise, consider the suggestion(s), and discuss it with the editor.  However, if the recommendation(s) chafes your creative juices, disregard it. Your manuscript is your story, and the final decision on any changes is yours.

 

Line Editing improves a manuscript’s readability.

What is it? Line Editing (also known as stylistic editing or paragraph-level editing) strives to ensure things like syntax, word choice, phrasing, sentence structure, and showing vs. telling doesn’t prompt a reader to stop, question, and/or leave a manuscript before he or she wants to.

Who needs Line Editing? Writers that are:
• Interested in having a professional correct these types of items.
• Pursuing independent publishing. (Most traditional publishers prefer handling Line Editing in-house.)
• Serious about succeeding as an author.

What does a Line Editor look for? Things like:
• Preservation of author voice
• Effective rhythm and pulse of prose
• Clarity and flow of sentences and paragraphs
• Consistent style and format
• Awkward phrasing
• Word and phrase overuse
• Weak sentence construction and variety
• Odd word choices
• Ambiguities
• Too much telling and not enough showing
• Odd dialogue
• Clichés
• Copyrighted material permissions
• Information errors or inconsistencies
• Incorrect text references with in-book exhibits
• Incorrect historical expressions or references (if applicable)
• Lack of strong scene-ending hooks

Best time to use a Line Editor? After the Content Editing stage.

How to save money on Line Editing? Fix as many of these items before submitting manuscript to Line Editor.

Timing? Two to three weeks.

What to prepare for?
• Paragraph and sentence reworks
• Homework if copyrighted material permissions are missing
• Issues that can only be resolved by author

Caution… Beware of a Line Editor that:
• Doesn’t fix anything. Nobody’s writing is perfect. Nobody’s.
• Steps all over the author’s voice and/or style.
• Encourages a major rewrite.

FYI: Don’t be afraid to question an editor’s judgment. Listen to what she/he has to say based on his/her professional expertise, consider the suggestion(s), and discuss it with the editor.  However, if the recommendation(s) chafes your creative juices, disregard it. Your manuscript is your story, and the final decision on any changes is yours.

 

Copyediting targets a manuscript’s correctness and consistency.

What is it? Copyediting (also known as sentence-level editing) concentrates on fixing words and sentences instead of delving into the author’s expression. Sometimes, line editing and copyediting are combined into the same stage.

Who needs Copyediting? Writers that are:
• Interested in having a professional correct these types of items.
• Pursuing independent publishing. (Most traditional publishers prefer handling Copyediting in-house.)
• Serious about succeeding as an author.

What does a Copyeditor look for?
• Detail, description, and timeline consistency
• Correct grammar and punctuation
• Correct facts
• Typos

Best time to use a Copyeditor? After the Line Editing stage or after the Content Editing stage (if combining Line Editing and Copyediting into one stage).

How to save money on Copyediting? Fix as many of these items before submitting manuscript to Copyeditor.

Timing? One to two weeks.

What to prepare for?
• Minor reworks
• Issues that can only be resolved by author

Caution… Beware of a Copyeditor that:
• Doesn’t fix anything. Nobody’s writing is perfect. Nobody’s .
• Encourages a major rewrite.

 

Proofreading double-checks a manuscript’s publication-ready status.

What is it? Proofreading (also known as word-level editing and mechanical editing) examines some same items a Copyeditor does, but a Proofreader looks for hard-and-fast mistakes overlooked during the Copyedit.

Who needs Proofreading? Writers that are:
• Ready to publish their manuscript.
• Pursuing independent publishing. (Most traditional publishers prefer handling Proofreading in-house.)
• Serious about succeeding as an author.
• What does a Proofreader look for? Things like:
• Accurate table of contents
• Accurate index
• Accurate artwork placement
• Accurate cross-references
• Accurate and consistent headers, footers, page numbers, etc.
• Typos
• Repeated words next to each other
• Punctuation errors
• Capitalization errors
• Abbreviation errors
• Formatting errors

Best time to use a Proofreader? Before uploading manuscript to typesetter and/or book publishing site.

How to save money on Proofreading? Fix as many of these items before submitting manuscript to Proofreader.

Timing? One week.

What to be prepared for?
• Minor reworks
• Phrase, word, and punctuation changes

Caution… Beware of a Proofreader that:
• Doesn’t fix anything. Nobody’s manuscript is perfect. Nobody’s .
• Encourages rewrites.

Still not sure which type of editing is appropriate for your current work in progress? Drop me an email, and I’ll point you in the right direction.

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