What’s In an Edit?

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. Let’s talk about editing.

I recently read a book that had a good plot. The story was intriguing. The writing grammatically correct. I didn’t find any spelling or punctuation errors. Sound like the person had a good editor, right?

Not necessarily. Throughout the book, there were countless repeated words. Here are two examples.

“Yardley stood outside the bedroom doors. Double doors, white with copper trim. She pictured Isaac in the morning, opening both doors and what he must’ve seen. She took both knobs and pushed the doors open, the way a child might.”

Or this:

“Yardley knew she was lucky to be a federal prosecutor. The state prosecutors were overworked and had little time to help in any investigations or interviews. Federal prosecutors could pick and choose their cases and take all the time they needed. Whereas a state prosecutor might interview a victim once before a trial, Yardley could interview a victim ten times if she wanted. She could send the FBI to collect evidence she required and turn down cases she felt didn’t need to be prosecuted. As a state prosecutor, she wouldn’t have had the time to help Baldwin.”

While the author likely had a good copy editor or proofreader, he could have used a content or line editor. What’s the difference? Let’s explore the various types of editing.

Developmental editing. This occurs in the early stages of a book. An author has an idea, may even have a rough outline, but they need help putting it all together. The developmental editor looks at the big picture. They don’t focus on grammar, spelling, or punctuation. They do focus on the structure, look for plot holes, and help an author fix what’s wrong.

Content editing. This is when an editor digs deep into the story. The content editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Some things they do are:

  • Inconsistencies with character behavior and/or speech
  • Point of view issues, including author intrusion and deep point of view
  • Redundancies or repeating the same information in different ways
  • Ways to tighten dialogue or sentences
  • Active vs. passive voice
  • Confusing scenes or passages
  • Overused words or sentences   
  • Suggest changes that can improve the pacing of a scene or paragraph
  • Telling vs. showing

Line editing. As the name implies, a line editor goes over the manuscript line by line. Although the term is often used interchangeably with content editing, there is a difference. A line editor will look for things such as:

  • Sentence flow
  • Cliches and sentence fragments
  • Help you clarify meaning
  • Eliminate jargon
  • Tighten your sentences by eliminating unnecessary words

Copy editing. Some line editors also perform the duties of a copy editor. But copy editing is for the finished manuscript. Copy editors look for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. The copy editor will also make sure your manuscript follows the proper style guidelines. (Note: most book use the Chicago Manual of Style.)

Proofreading. Think you’re finished? While copy editors and proofreaders often do the same thing, a proofreader’s job is to take the formatted version of your book to give it a final review. This occurs right before a book is released. Proofreaders do just that. They proof. Look for spelling errors and typos. They don’t change the content.

Overwhelmed? Not every writer uses each type of editor. Use of beta readers and critique groups can help with the development and content of the book. Some editors perform the function of line and copy editing.

A good edit can be costly, something many indie authors can’t afford. Publishing companies provide the various levels of edits, although they may not utilize each one.

What types of editors have you used? What do you find the most beneficial? Please share in the comments.

48 thoughts on “What’s In an Edit?

  1. I used an established author and Beta Readers for my first book. Repetitive words are a common and easy error, but can be fixed by reading the sentence aloud and determining if it sounds overused, Just my opinion, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: What’s In an Edit? – Makers Garage

  3. Pingback: What’s In an Edit? – Creativity & Books

  4. This is an useful post, Joan. I usually have a combined developmental and content edit as my book is in an advanced stage when I send it to my editor. I then have an edit done for spelling, etc. and my publishers does another edit of the printers proof as do I. You’d think there’d be no mistakes, wouldn’t you, but I always find a few.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I worked with a publisher, we did multiple rounds of content, copy and line editing. Finished by a proofreader, and then moved onto galleys which came down to format changes only. I paid for professional editing on all but one of my indie releases. Whether an author is going the traditional route through a publisher or indie publishing on their own, editing is key. I’ve DNF’d too many books for lack of editing.

    A very insightful post, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kensington does a wonderful job of multiple edits on my books, but I try really hard to have them as clean as possible before I send them in. My critique partners catch a LOT, and then my editor does a content edit when he gets the book. After that, the first edit includes both line and copy edits, and then finally, a proofreader finishes it. My self-published books aren’t as lucky, but my critique partners keep them as clean as possible. It surprises me, though, that Kensington works so hard on my manuscripts yet I’ve seen other Kensington writers whose books have lots of obvious mistakes. I’m not sure how that happens. One of my favorite Kensington authors had POV changes, missing words, and the wrong verbs (not plural when they should be) in her books. It really surprised me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are fortunate, Judi. It is strange about the other author.

      The book I referenced had a traditional publisher. About the same time I read another author who had the same publishing company. His book didn’t have the blatant errors but he also thanked his beta readers and his wife for being his first proofreader.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Joan Hall has a great post on Story Empire today about one of a writer’s thorniest problems: editing. Check it out to learn more about the process, including the differences between the various types of editing available. This is something every writer needs to understand in order to produce the best book possible, and I hope you’ll consider sharing the post far and wide. Thanks, and thanks to Joan for such an informative and helpful post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent breakdown of each type of editor, Joan. I once had a proofreader destroy my entire novel. She changed all my sentences to passive and tossed a grenade into my story rhythm. When I saw her handy work I freaked. So much so the publisher got on the phone with me and we went page by page fixing her changes. Turns out, she was an author in the house that was filling in for the proofreader. By the time we finished, we both came the conclusion that she couldn’t have done that amount damage by mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like a little jealousy. I had a horrible experience with an editor in my early years I’d writing. It was a short story for an anthology. He changed it so much that I am ashamed of it. To this day, I will not share any links to the book and I wish I’d used a pen name. Other writers were equally frustrated. He was a frustrated writer with an ego bigger than Texas.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a great topic, Joan. It is true that editing is the most expensive part of indie publishing. For that reason, we see lots of indie books that are not polished and have errors. My experience with my newest book (and my first time to work with a real publisher) has clearly shown me the difference. Not only did I get content editing, but also copy, line, and proofreading as well. I feel confident this book will the best it can be. I wish I could have afforded better editors with my four indie books. Sigh…maybe someday. Thank you for sharing the breakdown on editing, Joan!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you for such a clear explanation of the different types of editors, Joan. I have never used a developmental editor. I rely on the beta readers to give me an idea when the story s off the rails. When I was traditionally published, I had the worst editing possible. I had to scratch my head and wonder. Also, it was challenging to get them to go back and correct the mistakes. I love my current editor. She is a genius, and I hope she will continue to work on my stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I have very few titles that are self-published. My publisher usually handles these different edits for me. I do think they’re all useful, though, and the last two essential. And you can’t do it yourself. Every story needs fresh eyes. We’re just too close to our own work to see its issues. (At least, I know I’m too close to my own work to see its flaws.)

    Great post, Joan.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. What a great post, Joan. I hadn’t realized there were so many different editors. I’ve always turned to an editor for help because they are skilled in ways I am not, but I’m not sure how they would define themselves. Your list has opened a door to understanding that invaluable field. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Great post, Joan! I had no idea there were so many types of editors. I’ve used beta readers and friends who are grammar gurus, and I had a professional editor (not sure which kind) do some pro bono work with me, but I’ve never hired an editor. I just don’t make enough money for that just yet. Maybe one day, lol! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  14. This is a great breakdown of the various types of edit and what a manuscript needs. I couldn’t agree more about all that repetition. I’ve just finished a book by a major author, published via one of the ‘big-three’ houses, and the book suffered terribly from those sorts of basic mistakes. I have to wonder sometimes.

    Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/whats-in-a-edit-story-empire/

    Thanks for sharing, Joan. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  15. Pingback: What's In a Edit? | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  16. I’m blessed to be with a publisher who takes my manuscripts through each of the stages of editing you covered. I can write the story, but I’ll admit, I’m no Grammar Queen! 🙂 This is a great post to clarify the differences, Joan!

    Liked by 6 people

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