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What are the Types of Book Editing (and How do You Decide Which one You Need)?

Bijgewerkt op: 18 mei 2023

You've finished your first draft, and now you're ready to send it off to an editor.


But do you know the different types of editing?


And what order should you do them in?


If you’d like to listen to an explanation, you can watch the video below.



In total, we can discern four different types of editing:


(And yes, that’s the order you do them in.)


For more detailed information on each stage, including estimated costs, download the PDF booklet by clicking the button.



Developmental editing

Developmental editing is a big picture type of editing. It concerns the global story plot. Specifically:

  • Plot: For instance, how the main plot relates to the subplot or how it's supported by the subplot. And whether the plot has all the right elements for the genre it’s written in.

  • Structure: how the plot is organized.

  • Characterization: For instance, the character's arc and how characters are presented.

  • Pacing: For instance, whether the pacing is too slow or whether it’s rushed.

  • Viewpoint: which POV is used, who the narrator is, and what the narrative device is.

  • Voice: For instance, is the narrator’s voice consistent? Is it compelling?

  • Tense: For instance, whether it’s told in past or present tense.


In essence, developmental editing is a global evaluation of your story to see whether it works or not.


The pitfall here is that a large part of the evaluation is subjective, as it is with many forms of art. With writing it's no different. Taste can matter.


So here are some tips if you want to work with a developmental editor:

  • You may not agree with all the ideas and suggestions the developmental editor gives you. So make sure the editor explains to you why certain things need to be improved.

  • Take their suggestions as inspiration to develop your own ideas. If there's an idea that makes you feel excited, then it's probably the right one.

  • Take some time to think about the suggestions. Let it sink in before you instantly tackle your story.

 
 

Line editing

Line editing is a stylistic line-by-line sentence and paragraph level edit. What that means is that the editor really goes into the paragraph and sentence level when they look for things to improve.


It concerns itself with the stylistic use of language.


It's important to improve the flow and clarity of the story. That's why you do line edits.


Some examples of what’s addressed in line edits are:

  • Repetition.

  • Redundance.

  • Monotonous sentence.

  • Ambiguity.

  • Word choice for the character’s voice.

  • Consistency of viewpoint and narrative style.

  • Awkward metaphors.

  • Showing vs telling.


Some tips when you work with a line editor:

  • As with developmental editing, line editing can be more subjective. So there is usually more than one way to improve a sentence. If you disagree with a change, make sure you understand why the change was made. Perhaps you can still alter the sentence into something you do like.

  • The editor should never take away your voice. A stylistic edit is not meant to alter the voice, but only make it clearer and more readable.


Copyediting

Like line editing, copyediting is a sentence level edit. However, instead of stylistic, copyediting is concerned with grammar and syntax.


Consistency is key when it comes to copy editing. Especially if you have words that can be spelled out in different ways, if you have different preferences in terms of commas, and so on.


A copy editor addresses the following issues:

  • Dialogue tagging and punctuation.

  • Spacing.

  • Logic of character traits, the timeline, and the environment.

  • Syntax, grammar, spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, and punctuation.

  • Chapter sequencing.


Some tips if you want to work with a copy editor:

  • If you already know you have words with multiple spellings, give your editor your preferred way. This also applies to Oxford comma, terminal commas, and internal commas. Basically anything you already know that you want in your manuscript and that you think the copy editor might need, just let them know.

  • If there are any made-up words or unusual words, let your editor know how you want it spelled.

  • If you want your editor to fact-check something or to check your referencing, mention it beforehand. This will take them more time, so they will need to include that when they give you their rate.

 
 

Proofreading

It's very similar to copy editing in that it also focusses on grammar and spelling. However, it focusses more on the minor errors.


It's really the final check of your manuscript to catch any small errors that have still slipped through the cracks.


These are mostly small issues like:

  • Punctuation.

  • Text formatting.

  • Misspellings.

  • Spacing.

  • Typos.

  • Missing words.

  • Spelling consistency.

  • Layout issues.


Other common issues are homophones, words that sound the same but don't mean the same, subject-verb agreement, and numbers and dates consistency.


Some tips if you work with a proofreader:

  • The more thoroughly you've already checked your own document, the easier things will be for your proofreader. And this will save you money.

  • If you have some more unusual formatting choices, make sure you mention this to your proofreader. For instance, if you have a certain word that's important in your story that you always want to italicize.

  • With a proofread, you can also choose to send your document as a PDF to your proofreader. This is common in publishing and can be beneficial as the proofreader will look at any potential layout issues. However, if you’re preparing your document for an eBook, using a Word document is usually the preferred choice.

 
 

Which type of editing do you need?


Now that we've covered all the differences, there's one big question left.


Do you need all these types of edits to improve your manuscript?


Yes. You do.


They all work on a different level to improve your manuscript. I hope the descriptions of the different types of edits have helped you to see what they bring to your manuscript.


It is important that you follow all these four stages when you're editing your manuscript. Meaning: if you haven’t yet done at least one developmental edit, then that’s what you should do.


Does it mean you need an editor for all these types of edits? Not necessarily.


It really depends on your budget.


You will need to make some choices there. If you do have the budget, then absolutely hire an editor for each of these stages.


It can never hurt to have an additional set of professional eyes go over your manuscript on these different stages.


But if you do need to make a choice, I usually recommend a developmental edit—or a manuscript evaluation—and a proofread.


That's because the developmental edit is really important to give that large picture overview and make sure your story really works. Whereas the proofread helps you catch those final mistakes and makes sure your manuscript is ready for publication.


However, even if you do hire an editor on each of these stages, I would still recommend you also do the edits yourself.


Why?


One: It's a learning experience. You'll get to know your story inside and out, which is very important.


Two: It will save you money. The better your story already is before it goes to the professional, the less time it will cost them to improve it, and the less time it will cost them, the less expensive it will be for you.


If you've just finished your first draft, first do some developmental editing yourself before you send it off to a developmental editor.


If you've no idea how to even begin editing, you can check out my free self-editing course where you'll learn more about each stage of editing and how you can do it yourself.


I also have a video series called “From First Draft to Finished” where I take you through the editing stages in more detail.


Would you like more information on each editing stage? Download this PDF booklet.

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