Since I’ve started my editing business, I’ve come to understand that there are varying levels of the editing process. I think many authors aren’t sure where to start after they’ve finished their great novel, so I thought I’d share a short explanation about different kinds of editing you will need once you finish your manuscript.
Some people do not consider beta readers to be part of the editing process, but I think they are an integral part. Why? Because many times, the beta reader will be your actual readers. You can gather beta readers from a variety of sources like writing groups and online writing outlets, but they can simply be your friends, family, church acquaintances, your uncle’s boss’s sister… whomever. I do suggest utilizing readers who have a good grasp of the English (or whatever language you’re writing in) language and who are interested in the type of book you have written. (Folks who like books on the Civil War probably aren’t interested in Young Adult Romance.)
When a beta reader reads your novel, they will catch little discrepancies and even grammar/punctuation issues that you may have missed. In addition, betas typically don’t get paid money, but, instead, get a copy of your book when it’s finished. This gives them a bit of an incentive to do a good job for you. You can also utilize these essential readers after your book release for promotion and reviews (because they’ve read your book and, of course, are now your biggest fans!) You can also offer them additional incentive by including them in your acknowledgements (because who doesn’t want their name in a book?)
After your beta readers have read and given you great feedback, you can make any changes you think are necessary and then move on to the next editing stage: content or substantive editing. (The content edit is my strong suit.) The content editor will read through your entire novel and make note of any timeline or consistency issues. Was your character seated in the last paragraph but is now pacing the room? When did they stand up? Or were they on Tatooine and now they’ve traveled to Hoth? How did they get there? You’d be surprised how often I find mistakes in even thoroughly edited manuscripts! I recently did a content edit for an author who’d have MANY beta readers go through her work and they ALL missed major plot point issues!
Content editors will look at your manuscript as a whole and tell you if it works and what doesn’t. It’s the “big picture” edit.
After you have all your plot points, timeline and big details ironed out, you’ll go to your copy or line editor. This person will go over your manuscript line by line (hence “line” editor) and make sure that the content is accurate, easy to follow, fit for its purpose, and free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition. Sometimes a line editor will even help with formatting. Grammar and punctuation will also be marked through this process as well as misspelled words and any additional issues with the book as a whole.
Last, but not last are the proofreaders. This is the final process of editing for your manuscript. Although proofreaders are similar to copy editors, they get into the really nitty gritty of your work. No missing period or comma will get by these folks. (This is NOT my strong suit…) By the time a proofreader gets your manuscript it has already been through many edits, has been formatted to what you want it to be and will probably have a table of contents, a cover and an index (if needed). This is truly the final stage. Once the proofer is done with it – it’s ready to publish!!
If you’ve written a manuscript, don’t think you only need to have it edited once. A manuscript goes through many, MANY rounds of editing before it’s ready for publication. I encourage you to submit to this lengthy and sometimes grueling process in order to publish your most polished piece.
After all, you didn’t spend all that time writing it to just put it out there with mistakes, did you??
Now go write! (And be ready to edit!)