So I’ve been super busy lately. As you may know I am actually the Head Editor for OWS, while also being Head Poetry Editor and an Executive Board member. Which means I do a lot of editing and work when I’m not writing. Lately, my editing schedule has been a little crazy, so I thought we could talk about editing today. Just a casual chat. So here goes.
There are a couple different types of editing, developmental (or substantial) editing and line (or copy) editing. These are very different from each other and it’s important to know which type of editing you would like or need when hiring an editor. Dev edits are the big holistic changes you need to develop your story. Things like looking for consistencies and plot holes, structural or organizational changes, strengthening weak writing, adding or deleting scenes or chapters, developing characters, etc. These are the big changes to make sure your story is strong. They are not the polishing we usually think of when we think editing. These edits are also a lot of work, so are more expensive when you’re hiring an editor. But they are definitely worth it, especially early in your writing career when you’re unsure of what you need to strengthen and work on in your drafts.
Line edits are the polishing stage. They are called that because they focus on line by line. So word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Are your word choices strong and adequate? Are your sentences varied? How do they flow and transition from one to the next. Is your grammar solid? These are the things you focus on for line edits. If your story is solid, then these are the edits you would look for.
The important things to remember when editing is to give yourself time in between first drafts and edits and to do edits in passes. For dev edits, group issues into like categories and then tackle them in passes. For example, you can first go through and look at structure. Are you hitting all your necessary plot points for the structure you’re using? Is this the best order for your chapters? Does your timeline make sense? Then go through and look at characters. Are they all developed and three-dimensional? Are they consistent and distinguishable from each other? Then do dialogue and body language. And so on and so forth. With line edits you can start with sentence structure and flow before moving on to spelling and grammar issues. But the most important thing is to wait long enough before you start. When we finish our first draft, it’s so tempting to keep going and start editing. But this is a mistake. You need to be able to look at the draft with fresh eyes to see the issues and mistakes. You need to give your brain a break to be able to see what’s missing from the story and what’s unclear. I think a month is a good amount of time, but take at least two weeks. Then give yourself the same break between dev edits and line edits. And don’t worry about spelling and grammar until the very end. No point in polishing when you have big changes to make.
You may be wondering why I talk about self-editing and hiring editors in the same post. It’s because I believe in both. We should always self-edit before we pass on our stories to anyone else. If we don’t, the drafts are too much of a mess for an editor to go through and make the best possible. If it’s a lot of work, they may not be able to finesse as much as if you had given them a cleaner draft. It will also cost you a lot more. More of their time and effort means more money. So don’t just think that editing is all their job. You’re responsible as well as the writer. They are there to improve, but you should do some work first. Also, if you are self publishing then I strongly recommend hiring an editor to make sure you are putting the best work out there. Self publishing makes it easy for you to get your book out there fast, but you don’t want it to be subpar. Especially if you are not an expert when it comes to editing. If you publish traditionally then you will have an editor assigned to you. It’s up to you whether you want to hire an editor before you query, for example. It can be a good idea to put your best foot forward when shopping around your MS, but know it will be edited again through the publishing company.
So those are some quick thoughts on editing. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and happy editing!