I often get asked if everybody needs an editor before going to publication and my answer is the same, regardless of whether you are seeking to self-publish, use a self-publishing service, or go the hybrid or traditional publishing route: Everyone needs an editor, even strong writers with excellent credentials and plenty of writing experience. We all get close to our subject matter and sometimes it’s hard to tell if our writing makes sense and reads clearly. What’s more, it’s easy to inadvertently make simple grammatical errors, omit pertinent information, or spell a word incorrectly.
An editor’s revisions are no reflection on the capabilities of the writers whose work they are editing. And they represent a smart investment in the protection and enhancement of your reputation.
In my view, editing is a necessity, rather than a luxury: my publisher originally took an interest in my first novel precisely because it had been professionally edited, which showed I was serious about the quality of my work. You can’t put a price on your reputation. You need an editor.
There are different layers of editing
Developmental, substantive, or structural editing usually involves:
• Revising or moving entire paragraphs or sentences
• Adding new material to fill gaps
• Deleting superfluous original material
• Re-organizing and restructuring content to improve flow and clarity
Wherever the meaning is unclear, an editor will flag the passage for clarification: if the reader doesn’t understand what’s being said, it’s impossible to know whether the content is in the right place.
Copy editing involves revising each paragraph, sentence and word in the manuscript to ensure consistency and clarity. This type of editing is also called line, mechanical, or stylistic editing. It’s very detailed and focused on precision. Copy editing involves:
• Ensuring consistency of character, story and setting
• Ensuring that details contribute to the story, rather than distract from it
• Ensuring that the story is largely “shown, not told”
Proofreading is the final step towards completion of a manuscript, and it involves a very thorough check for errors in:
• Grammar (contractions, verb-noun agreement)
• Punctuation and
• Word choice
Not all editors provide all types of editing so it’s a good idea to ask your prospective editor about the skills they bring to the editing table. Editing involves making fine distinctions and careful judgements about language, content and meaning, and your editor can only add value up to the limit of their own skills “envelope.” They bring the sum total of their intelligence, training, experience and personality to their work. But not more than that.