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 (and, crucially, the one where Goodreads and Amazon reviews exist). 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:
This kind of editing focuses on making sure that your story works and that you’re telling it in the most appropriate way.
Developmental editing (sometimes known as structural or substantive 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 – is your narrative journey organised in a way that makes sense to the reader? Does it have highs and lows in all the right places?
- Pacing – are you taking enough time over things, while keeping the plot moving?
- Tense and point of view – are you using the right tense and POV for your story, and are you using them consistently and correctly?
Developmental editing may also include notes on language use and style across the work as a whole but doesn’t tend to focus on these issues in detail.
If developmental 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 developmental edit), line editing, also known as heavy copyediting or stylistic 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, for example:
- 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.
Copyediting 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. Copyediting 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. (Copyediting is not considered the final stage of the manuscript preparation process; that’s proofreading, which is a final check to catch any lingering errors that have slipped through the net or been inadvertently introduced at earlier stages in the process.)
I offer two different editing services: line and copyediting combined, and developmental editing.
If your manuscript has not been through any kind of macro/story-level editing involving other people (so a professional editor or multiple readers who preferably aren’t related to you. This bit is important – we cannot effectively edit our own work without input from others who aren’t so close to it, or to you), developmental editing is likely to be thing you need.
Levels of and approaches to developmental editing vary greatly, because manuscripts vary greatly. What’s right for one author and their story might not be right for another. For this reason, my developmental editing service begins with a pre-editing assessment. I will read your manuscript and provide a short report (which will be less in-depth than a manuscript critique) outlining my recommendations for the next steps. It may be that the manuscript needs a full developmental edit, or it may need such a small amount of developmental work that it can be incorporated in a line and copyedit. Or it may be that the manuscript is at a stage where it would benefit from some further revisions before investing in developmental editing. This stage is about figuring out what’s going to be the best use of your time and money. This assessment is priced separately at £150 for manuscripts up to 120,000 words.
If the next stage is then a full developmental edit, this takes the form of a comprehensive editorial report that identifies the manuscript’s main strengths and areas for improvement, looking at all those story elements described above. I also make changes and comments in the manuscript, using Track Changes and comment bubbles, so you can see the advice from the report alongside examples in the text.
Developmental editing is priced on a per-project basis, and a quote will be provided as part of your initial assessment report. For guidance, rates are likely to fall between £13–£22 per 1,000 words.
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 copyedit will iron out any issues with style and flow, and make sure it’s clear and correct. 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 style sheet outlining the editorial decisions I have made.
Line and copyediting rates are determined 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 £9–£15 ($12–$20) per 1,000 words.
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