I’ve been a freelance editor for five years now so I’d like to talk about what editors do because I have found that authors, especially first-time writers, do not know what editors actually do, or the amount of detail that goes into editing.
There are three types of editing:
• Developmental editing: this type of editing takes a first draft and reads it with an eye on how (for fiction) the story or narrative is developed, who the characters are and how they develop through dialogue and action, the plot’s structure and plausibility, and the time line and pace of the story as it unfolds; for nonfiction, this type of editing reads the text for how the topic and thesis is explained, the validity of the author’s arguments, the number and factual accuracy of details necessary to prove these arguments, and the pace of the narrative (yes, nonfiction and academic texts also tell a story, and the flow of this story is vital not only to the educational value of the text but also to the pleasure found in reading this type of work)
• Line editing: this kind of editing includes refining your voice (the voice readers hear when reading the narrator’s words or your words [in nonfiction]) and the language style you use to tell the story or argue your thesis, refining scenes (where the action happens) and narrative exposition, revising paragraph and sentence structure for better flow and communication of your thoughts and intended meaning—all of which aids in ensuring readability of your book
• Copyediting: there is some overlap here with line editing, and I tend to combine both when necessary, depending on how well developed the manuscript is, but this type of editing is concerned with fact-checking (both fiction and nonfiction) as well as with ensuring the text’s absolute readability through the revision of sentence structure and grammar, punctuation, and spelling
Let’s say you’ve had your manuscript developmentally edited, even line and copy edited, then the last stage would be proofreading, the details of which I’ll go into in a later post.
Depending on what level of editing you are looking for, the fees you will be quoted vary. Some editors are great at developing your manuscript while others are spot-on in their copyediting skills. So, before you begin your search for an editor and contact any, it’s fundamental that you assess what type of editing you think your manuscript needs and begin your search from there.