Find a compatible editor.

What’s involved in editing your novel?

Whether you’re self-publishing your novel or trying to vault to the head of the slush pile, it’s generally true that commercial-quality books are supported by commercial-quality production. Hiring skilled, experienced pros is essential for your book’s key services: cover design and blurb/jacket copy, which promise readers commercial-quality value, and editing, which delivers that value in a compelling reading experience.

Types of editing

Developmental editing is the first priority for new and emerging writers. Also known as story editing or content editing, developmental editing helps fully develop and polish the story. It also cues you in on things you may not know yet about the way you’ve told the story, known as narrative (or storytelling) technique.

If you’ve never worked with a professional editor, you simply haven’t been exposed to the myriad reader expectations and best practices for story development at the commercial publishing level. I recommend developmental editing for all debut writers. In my experience, developmental editing is also particularly helpful for manuscripts over 80,000 words, literary and literary-leaning fiction, and stories with complex plots or structures.

If you hope to be traditionally published, developmental editing gives your storytelling the impact it needs to attract an agent’s notice. If you’re self-publishing, developmental editing ensures that you’re not launching your writing career with a lackluster story riddled with amateurish storytelling and newbie mistakes.

Substantive or line editing deals with the quality and flow of the writing. This is the sort of editing that makes the book read like a well-polished commercial work. If you’re hoping to be traditionally published, line editing makes your writing more competitive with the thousands of highly refined manuscripts jockeying to make it out of the slush pile. If you’re self-publishing, substantive editing is your opportunity to onboard narrative techniques and best practices you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

Copyediting addresses grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage as well as internal consistency and readability issues. If you’ll be traditionally published, your publisher handles copyediting for you—unless your manuscript needs copyediting to get in the door in the first place. So test yourself: Do you need copyediting before submission?

Proofreading is technically not a type of editing. Proofreading is performed on a book’s proofs (the fully formatted layouts of your book’s pages) to catch oversights and review late changes. The self-publishing community often uses “proofreading” to refer to a final editorial-level review on the manuscript, so make sure you and your editor are referring to the same conception of this process.

Keep reading the rest of the article at The Writes of Fiction.

  • Why the way you publish matters
  • Why the editing your friend got isn’t the right fit for your book
  • How to edit before traditional publishing
  • How to edit before self-publishing
  • How to tell what kind of editing your book needs

Lisa Poisso, Editor and Book Coach

Understanding how stories work changes everything. I’ll show you how to back up your creative instincts so your ideas hit home. It’s time to accelerate your journey from aspiring writer to emerging author. 

Ready to get serious about your book? Apply to work with me.

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