Editing

Errors in your writing can pull your reader out of the world you have lovingly created for them and back into the real, less interesting one. Good editing removes these errors, along with anything else that can create a barrier between your reader and the story you want to share with them.

Writing can have issues at a number of different levels, from fundamental plot problems to a couple of misplaced commas, and there are different levels of editing to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, for a bunch of people who are all about consistency, editors are surprisingly bad at agreeing on what these different types of editing should be called, so here’s what I mean when I talk about the types of editing I offer:

Substantive editing

This kind of editing focuses on making sure that your story works and that you’re telling it in the most appropriate way.

Substantive editing (sometimes known as structural or developmental editing) looks at all the basic components of your manuscript and makes sure they are all working together to create a compelling, engaging story. This includes things like:

  • Plot – is your plot interesting, plausible, coherent?
  • Characters – are your characters believable, likeable (except for the bad guys!) and consistent?
  • Structure – do your events happen in the right order? Do you have exciting things happening at the right points?
  • Pacing – are you taking enough time over things, while keeping the plot moving?
  • Tense and point-of-view – are you using the right tenses and POV to tell your story effectively, and are you using them correctly?

Substantive editing may also include notes on language use and style.

Line editing

If substantive editing is about the ‘what’ of your story, line editing is about the ‘how’. Once the ideas are in good shape (through revisions after feedback from beta readers or a manuscript critique, or a substantive edit), line editing, also known as heavy copy-editing, looks at the style and flow of your writing to make sure those ideas are expressed as beautifully as they can be, while still retaining your distinct voice. Line editing looks at:

  • Sentence structure – making sure that sentences flow smoothly and logically, and that there is a good variety of different structures and rhythms.
  • Word choices – avoiding too much repetition of words or sounds, ensuring the words used suit the character and the setting.
  • Dialogue – making sure dialogue is realistic yet stylish and appropriate for the character and the readership.
  • Dialogue tags – making sure tags are neither over- nor under-used, reducing the use of tags that aren’t technically dialogue tags, avoiding overuse of unusual or strong tags.
  • Avoiding clichés and lazy metaphors like the plague.
  • Ensuring the right balance of ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ (yes, you can have too much ‘showing’).
  • Reducing over-description of settings and actions.
  • Checking facts for internal and external correctness and consistency.

Copy-editing

Copy-editing is about clarity, consistency and correctness. It ensures that errors are found and eliminated (as far as is humanly possible, which is not 100%, no matter how brilliant your editor is), the text is grammatically correct (where appropriate), spelling is correct, punctuation is used appropriately, basic facts are checked and formatting is consistent. Copy-editing usually brings the whole manuscript in line with a style guide of some kind, such as New Hart’s Rules, Chicago Manual of Style, or one provided by the client. (Copy-editing is not considered the final stage of the manuscript preparation process; that’s proofreading, which is a check over the whole thing to catch any lingering errors that have slipped through the net or been inadvertently introduced at earlier stages in the process.)

I primarily offer line editing – polishing up your writing so your story really shines. I combine this with either copy-editing or substantive editing, according to your needs.

If your manuscript has not been through any kind of macro/story-level editing involving other people (so a professional editor or multiple beta readers. This bit is important – we cannot effectively edit our own work without input from others who aren’t so close to it), substantive and line-editing is likely to be the thing you need. I edit the manuscript directly in Microsoft Word using Track Changes, with substantial comments pointing out where I think something could be re-written/moved/altered. I also provide a timeline and character profiles, which will help your copy-editor (as the manuscript will still need copy-editing after this process) check for consistency.

If your manuscript has been through some macro editing and you are sure you have a solid story (and other people agree!), then a line and copy-edit will iron out any issues with style and flow, and make sure it’s clear and correct. Again, this is done in Microsoft Word in Track Changes, with comments used for queries and explanations of changes. Along with the marked-up manuscript, you will receive a timeline, character profiles, and a style sheet outlining the editorial decisions I have made.

Pricing

Every piece of writing is different. Therefore every edit is different, so I can’t tell you right now exactly how much it will cost to have your work edited. I determine the exact rate from a free, no-obligation sample edit, which not only allows me to figure out the level of work involved for me, but it shows you how I work so you can decide if I’m the right editor for you. Prices are around £8–£12 ($10–$15) per 1,000 words for line and copy-editing, and £10–£18 ($12–$23) for substantive and line editing.

Sound good? Contact me and let’s discuss it further.

‘Kia is very attentive, great at communication, and she’s helped me grow so much as a writer! I can’t say enough great things about her! And my book, oh, I love how it turned out and how she polished it to perfection and found all my errors!’ – Serena Kearney, author