When to Find an Editorial Professional?

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There isn’t an easy answer to when an author should find an editorial professional, be that for developmental editing, copyediting, line-editing or proofreading. However, it is best to give a collaboration of this sort some time for consideration. It is good to be clear what the different services provide and to approach suitable candidates with enough time to find a good match to achieve the best outcomes for yourself and your manuscript.

It would be an understatement to say that how writers write varies. The amount of planning which different writers undertake ranges from the highly detailed plotters like John Grisham who feels that the longer he spends preparing a detailed outline the easier the book is to write. Through to writers like Steven King who plans very little, preferring to work things out as he writes. To him very outlined books have a somewhat stale quality.

Some writers use a Pomodoro approach, with disciplined daily word count goals and others will take a cabin in the woods with the aim of not resurfacing without a completing manuscript. Bashing out a first draft and not looking back is the advice of many how to write books and some writers edit as they go along.

As a writer you will know how writing a book is a major accomplishment and the culmination of a great deal of time, discipline, perseverance and not a little emotion. Many will be unable to say the number of hours it took to reach that stage and will frequently answer with the number of years since the first idea came to them.

Redrafting and editing choices

However, it is arrived at the completed manuscript it is a good idea for the writer to distance themselves from the manuscript, at least for a while before embarking on the next stage. Self-publishing writers will not have the same set up as a publishing house with the team focused to ensure all the necessary stages of the production process are carried out in a coordinated way so that deadlines are met and all the preparations are carried out smoothly.

If you are thinking of using the services of an editorial professional you may want to involve them at any stage. Once the manuscript is written you may request a developmental edit or ask for a manuscript critique. This would be to help you identify where there may be difficulties of plot or with the structure of the writing. Perhaps you do not want to change any of the big picture features of your manuscript and you have time to rework the manuscript through some rounds of redrafting. After this you may decide to collaborate with a professional copyeditor. It could be that you feel you have reached the point where your latest draft would benefit from being looked at with fresh pair of eyes. Even if you set aside time and decide that you are going to rely on your self-editing skills you may seek the reassurance of a proofreader for a last check before it goes in front of a reader, be that publisher, agent or beta readers. 

Some authors feel their time is best spent creating the next title and may already be preoccupied with that. From an editor’s standpoint schedules get filled up and earlier approaches are easier to accommodate.

If a publisher is already interested in the manuscript planning for editorial services will help get the manuscript to be as good it can be for the publisher. Experienced authors appreciate the value of booking their editorial collaborations to meet their deadlines and aspirations.

Which Service Do I Need?

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Illustration courtesy of sketchrobin.com

Developmental editing is carried out at an early stage of preparing a manuscript. You may have written a full manuscript but be unsure what aspects need improvement and whether there are issues with the plot which, if improved, would increase your success with the book once it is in the hands of readers. A developmental edit will consider the big-picture aspects such as: plot holes, unconvincing characters, character development and themes. From a developmental edit you will have a report on the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript as well as comments and suggestions within the manuscript to consider.

Manuscript critiques are similar to development edits and you’ll get a similar report on your manuscript considering the big-picture aspects but without the additional comments and suggestions within the manuscript.

Following both a developmental edit and a manuscript critique it is likely that you will want to apply some or all of the suggestions and prepare a redraft.

Copyediting or line editing is carried out on a manuscript which may already have been reworked and could have had some developmental editing. You will be happy with the structure and the big-picture aspects. Having been redrafted the writing is ready to be thoroughly checked through and consistent improved where appropriate.

This will help the next reader to have a smooth and immersive reading experience without the distraction of inconsistencies and errors. When copyediting I will edit the work line by line and word by word. Working in MS Word I will be aiming to increase the clarity and flow of the sentences and words. I will be checking for:

  • Clear, effective and well-paced narrative
  • Spelling, punctuation, grammar, hyphenation and capitalisation
  • Suitable use of tenses
  • Clarity of dialogue expression and presentation
  • Consistency within the word choices with character and author voice
  • Believability of characters through consistent traits
  • The avoidance of overwriting, repetition, cliché or unintended confusion
  • Suitability of balance between showing and telling within sentences
  • Spacing of chapters, paragraphs, sentences, lines and words.

Following a line or copyedit you will receive the marked-up manuscript (in MS Word and with Track Changes) and a bespoke style sheet showing the style decisions which have been made in relation to capitalisation, numbering, spelling and punctuation styles etc. within the manuscript.

Proofreading is carried out on the manuscript when it has been written, redrafted and edited so is almost ready for the final reader. Proofreading aims to catch issues of spelling and grammar which remain and other mistakes that may have still have slipped through. You will probably have read the manuscript so often by this stage that it will be harder for you to spot mistakes.

Traditionally proofreading is carried out after the manuscript has been typeset and the layout of the paragraphs, lines and words on the page can be viewed as they would be by the readership. A trained and experienced second pair of eyes will help to ensure that the manuscript is as good as it can be before the next reader, be that publisher, agent or the public get to read it.

It’s OK if you don’t know exactly which service you want, that’s what I’m here for! Drop me a line with the form below and I’ll get right back to you.