Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Developmental Editing’

What’s With All the Editing Terms?

In Copyediting, Developmental Editing, Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Proofreading on July 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

A clean dog is like a clean manuscript–both want you to pick them up for either petting or reading.

By SHELLEY WIDHALM

Do you read a Big 5 published book and see a few grammatical errors that make you flip to the acknowledgements page and ask, “Is there even an editor on the team?”

The last book I read, “Just Between Us,” omitted almost every “and” between independent clauses and randomly used the Oxford comma (the comma before the last item in a series). It’s a suspense, so I got into the story, but the first 50 pages were a bit tedious, especially with the info dump of back story and the only action a bruised wrist and four characters wondering about it.

My current read, “The Lost,” overdoes “says” when action beats will suffice and has a few grammatical and logistical errors despite three editors on board.

Of course, there is a 5% miss rate with any editing job.

But what exactly is editing that makes sure readers get to read without the annoyance of errors? There are many terms for editing, but it can be broken down into three levels from an overall view down to the final polish. There is content and developmental editing, copy and line editing, and proofreading.

Content/Developmental Editing

Content and developmental editing looks at the structure of your novel or how your story is put together from beginning to end. It’s a review of plot and character arcs and the development of the main and secondary characters, as well as setting, dialog, theme, pacing, and conflict and tension. There’s also the consideration of logistics, such as the timeline and space continuum, so that Monday happens after Sunday, and consistency of character, setting and other descriptions.

Here are some questions an editor may consider: How is the story told? How is it organized? How does it flow through the plot and character arcs? Are there any gaps or places lacking a transition? Are characters flat or dimensional? How about the pacing? At what points do readers get excited by the story line and at what points should there be time for reflection?

The result: readers don’t see words but pictures, as if the writing becomes cinematic. The story entices and excites readers. And it makes them pause at your voice and style, use of language and amazing descriptions.

Copy/Line Editing

Copy or line editing goes deeper by looking at the story word for word. It’s not just a matter of looking for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics and syntax. Depending on what’s needed, it also can involve checking for consistency in style, identifying areas where voice is lost, looking for word echoes (words that repeat in paragraphs or sentences), cutting what’s overstated, fixing plot points that end up getting repeated, and identifying misses—is there more that needs to be added or something to remove?

The editor might ask: How are commas being used as a stylistic choice (Oxford? No comma before the final “too” in a sentence?)? Are facts accurate and consistently used? Are metaphors and other writing devices carried throughout the story? Are there too many of them that end up being confusing? Are historical facts accurate? Are any scientific and other concepts explained in a way that makes sense?

The result: Good writing results in pages free of those little errors that take readers out of the story and cause them to edit in their heads.

Proofreading

Proofing a book is a matter of reviewing the language, such as a check of grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics and syntax (just like with copy editing), plus any typos and missed errors from previous editing rounds.

Reading the proof, especially if it is nonfiction, also involves flagging locations of art and graphics, checking page breaks and aligning chapters and indexes.

So when do you need which type of editor?

A developmental editor helps organize a story so that it meets genre demands and fits with reader expectations. It’s needed if writers get stuck in a story or receive several no’s from literary agents.

Line editing and proofreading give a final polish to writing that literary agents appreciate and readers of self-published authors demand—who wants to be caught up in errors when the idea is to read for story, plot and character and the desire to turn the page?

When is the Best Time to Hire an Editor?

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips on February 21, 2021 at 11:00 am

An editor can help writers find those missing plot points (think of a water spot in the midst of a frozen pond) and other structural and line errors in their work.

When are you ready to hire an editor? Should you even hire an editor? And what should you expect if you do?

These are important questions to ask once you’ve written your manuscript and are wondering if you should invest in having your novel professionally edited.

Most definitely if you plan to self-publish.

Maybe if you plan to go to the traditional route. Some literary agents and editors want to see manuscripts that have gone through a professional developmental edit but are not necessarily looking for that line level editing or final proofreading round. Others want to see that polish, but it also depends on your goals, skills and experience as a writer.

Developmental editing is for big picture issues that look at plot, character development, dialog, pacing and setting. Line level or copy editing is a line-by-line check of grammar, punctuation, spelling and mechanics, plus consistency, flow and repetitions. Proofreading is a final review for errors, as well as looking over format and layout.

If you’re considering hiring an editor at any one of these levels, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re ready for a final review.

Not One, But Many

Has the manuscript gone through multiple drafts?

If you’ve finished the first, or rough, draft, it’s too soon to hire an editor. First and early drafts can be a little messy, have lots of typos and often are an attempt to get the story on the page but one that isn’t fully fleshed out. A draft may have too much backstory or stage setting through figuring out the plot. There may be repeated elements of plot points or character thoughts. Or there may be holes in the development of the story, a lack of transitions, a middle that drags or an ending that’s too abrupt (often from the writer wanting to finish the project).

Many for the One

Have you worked with a critique group or critique partner and beta readers to get feedback and an outside perspective on your work?

A critique partnership involves regular trades of manuscripts where writers give feedback and commentary on each other’s work. They might do things like make suggestions on areas that need improvement, elements that are missing or concepts that seem to not make sense. Beta readers are nonprofessional test readers who also give feedback but from the perspective of an average reader.

Getting it Right

Does your work meet genre and word count expectations?

Each genre has certain structural or story elements that readers expect to be met, as well as an expected word count. Most adult novels fall in the 80,000- to 100,000-word range, while novellas are 20,000 to 50,000 words and young adult novels are 55,000 to 80,000.

Getting it ‘Wrong’

Have you sent off your work to literary agents and gotten a large number of rejections or requests for partials or fulls (the full manuscript), then gotten a no response?

Though not fun, getting a negative response could mean that the novel has areas that need improvement, such as in voice, pacing, character development or storytelling. If several agents are saying the same thing, they may be identifying something that makes the book not fit the current market or unsaleable to publishing houses.

Once you’ve gone through these steps and feel that you can’t do anything else with your manuscript, you may want to hire an editor for a final round of feedback and editing suggestions.

Research your options, ask questions, check experience and industry knowledge, and ask for samples and recommendations. That way you will find the right partner to get your work to its best before you self-publish or search out an agent or small press.