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What to Expect from an Edit

Many authors are understandably nervous when they hire an editor. You have worked long and hard on your book and have poured the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears into it. Criticism, even the constructive variety, can be hard to take. To ease some of those fears, let’s talk about what you can expect from an edit and look at an edited sample page so you know what your manuscript will look like when you get it back.

The type of edits you get back from me will vary greatly depending on the type of edit you hire me to do, so let’s quickly discuss the different types of editing I offer. A developmental edit is big-picture editing where I look at story-level issues such as character development, point of view, dialogue, scene versus summary, and plot pacing. The next level of editing is line editing, which is about the words on the page more than the story. (You can think of developmental issues as being a hanger and line issues as being the clothes you hang on the hanger.) A line edit looks to improve clarity, diction, and readability. Are you using the best words to get your point across? Do your sentences flow well? Are there areas that will be confusing to your readers? A line edit makes sure you say exactly what you mean to say in the best way possible. I will usually point out minor story inconsistencies that I find during a line edit, but this is not the focus of the edit the way it is in a developmental edit. Finally, we have the copy edit, which focuses on finding grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

When I do a developmental edit, your edits will come in the form of an editorial letter. This letter will vary in length depending on the length of your book and the number of issues I find but is typically six pages or longer. In this letter, I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript, touching on the major points of storytelling as mentioned above. You may also see some comments within the manuscript itself, pointing out specific areas where issues occur and offering suggestions for reworking. What you won’t find are line-by-line edits of the text itself, which comes in a line edit.

A line edit will look more like I took the stereotypical red pen to your manuscript. In a line edit, I go through your manuscript line by line (hence the name), suggesting changes to word choice, sentence structure, transitions, etc. For small changes, I will make changes directly in the text using Word’s track changes feature. These changes will show up in red for deletions (with a line through deleted text) and blue for additions. For more complex changes, I will often leave a comment in the margin explaining the problem and offering solutions for rewording. Word makes it easy to accept or reject changes made in the text. To address comments, you will have to make the changes yourself.

A copy edit looks much like a line edit, just with fewer changes. Because a copy edit addresses mostly grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and doesn’t involve the same level of rewriting as a line edit, you will see fewer changes and comments. I still use the track changes and comments features to make my edits.

I have included a page from a developmental editorial letter and a page from a line edit, so you can see what each of those will look like. (The line edit is from a nonfiction piece, so the issues I am editing for will be slightly different than for a fiction piece. The way the edits look, however, will be the same. This piece required a heavy edit; your manuscript may not have this many edits.) If you have any questions about the types of editing I provide, please drop me a line. I would love to speak with you!

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