Finding an editor: choosing an editing service
Editors come in many forms, but most editors will offer more than one type of editing service. Didn’t know there was more than one? There are. If you did, you might wonder what editing you’ll need. Editors should offer an overview of what to expect in the services they offer, and if you haven’t seen that then click here to see mine for an example. We’ll cover the different types of editing and formatting, however, so we can say we covered part one of finding an editor.
Don’t confuse this post with my post about 8 things to know about choosing an editor and if you want to know how to get the most out of your relationship with your editor, click this link because this post will help you. I even have a post in which many writers voice when they think a writer is ready for an editor. This series is none of those things. This series is about what editing is, the types of editing that exist, and what you might look for when you start looking for an editor.
Copyediting is the most basic form of editing
I say that, but some might argue proofreading is the most basic form. I disagree, but I’m not here to argue a point. Copyediting is the process of checking consistency and accuracy. This includes spelling, grammar, light formatting such as paragraph indentation, and syntax.
Your editor might rearrange a sentence or two if it doesn’t read well, but they won’t make note of character inconsistencies, dialogue, plot holes, or anything you’ll find in other forms of editing.
Here are a few things, which I pulled straight from my editing service list, that an editor might look for:
- incorrect style (verb tense, informal usage of values or measurements, etc.)
- spelling (typos, homophones, etc.)
- word choice
- correct regional English usage
- removing simple formatting errors (This does not include formatting the book for publication.)
- sentence readability
- passive voice
I say might (if you caught that) because editors interpret the definition of copyediting differently. You will need to check their services page to see what they look for in detail, and don’t hesitate to ask questions because while they do offer a list of things they search for, it’s impractical to include everything on that list because it would be too long. But, what most editors include offers enough detail that the writer should be able to understand what they can expect.
Line editing goes a little deeper
This form of editing is interpreted differently by almost all editors. Some call line editing content editing, and some consider content editing to be a more substantial form of editing. Again, you’ll have to read their page to understand what they offer in more detail. I refer to mine as both content and line editing because, as a journalist, I struggle with calling it line editing; it’s similar but a little different in journalism.
Anyway, this means your editor will be looking at paragraph structure, sentence flow, dialogue, word choice (if they don’t in copyediting), consistency of language, and consistency of voice with some editors. Most line editing usually includes all that copyediting offers, too, so it’s actually a package deal, though I have a few things to say about that in a bit.
First, here are a few things an editor might look for, though you’ll still want to look at their page and definitely ask questions:
- sentence structure
- paragraph structure
- scene/character presentation
- fact-checking (time period, slang, etc.)
Line editing will not be the deepest available editing form, but it’s one of the most common. However, keep in mind that if you have problems with any of these (like dialogue or character presentation), you might have a few plot holes or developmental issues that won’t be addressed here. This is a good cleanup service that allows the writer who has a strong story to uncover anything they might have missed.
Watch out if the service states that copyediting is included
I’m not saying this is a red flag. My services say copyediting is included so that would be awkward if that’s what I meant. What you need to watch out for here is the process. For example, my line editing includes copyediting, but that is done after I finish the content part of it. That doesn’t include your part.
When you get the manuscript back, you’ll likely make changes, and those changes will reflect your writing, which is what you wanted to be edited in the first place. I include a discount to add on to the copyediting service, which I do to encourage writers to get their manuscript edited after they make necessary changes. Now, other editors might do it differently so, again, read their services page. I’m repeating that for a reason. It’s important. Read their services page.
Developmental (substantial/content/comprehensive) editing has many names
I’m calling it developmental editing. When I first started my editing business, I looked at tons of editing sites to see if there was any consistency that would allow me to show off my services properly, and this one confused me the most at first. Almost every site I visited called this service something different. Read…the editor’s…services…page.
Developmental editing is the deepest form of editing because it looks at the characters, the plot, the storyline, the flow, the dialogue, the structure, the organization, and so much more. It takes the longest to do, and it will challenge your resolve. I recommend this service to all new writers, and depending on how the sample edit goes, I might recommend it to veteran writers.
Here are some things included in most developmental editing services. This is mine so it doesn’t encompass all editors’ lists by any means:
- content structure and progression
- consistency of characters
- plot consistency and structure
- unanswered questions in the book (plot holes)
- meticulous review of scene structure
- scene/character relevance
This list could go on. An editor will focus more on some bullets (whether listed or not) based on the manuscript’s needs. For example, a memoir I edited in the past required me to look at organization and the tone of the story, as well as the narrator’s voice, more closely than I had with any other book I’d edited. I had to read carefully and ask the author, in many places, what they wanted things to do for/to the readers.
All books have different needs, so your editor will look at all these things, but they’ll focus on a few and that will change with the story. This is the most beneficial editing service, in my opinion, but be warned: you will receive a lot of notes. Don’t fear the notes. Don’t fear the questions. What you should fear is the unasked question because that means the mistake wasn’t found.
This service usually is all-inclusive
Most editors will include copyediting and line editing with this service, and sometimes a bit more. That’s because this service is so extensive, everything needs to be worked on, and when that happens, a story must be copyedited again because there will be many changes.
A few things an editor might include with their developmental service are workshops or revisions e-books, discussions or sessions. I include what I call a Red Pen Consultation, which is an in-depth discussion after my client receives their manuscript and looks at the edits and notes. It allows the writers to ask questions, it allows both of us to clarify things that might need to be clarified, and it solidifies a partnership, I think. I find any excuse to talk to my authors personally because I enjoy hearing about their dreams for their work, and I love having the chance to further explain my notes where it might be confusing. Look at what your prospective editor offers. Ask questions if you need to.
Don’t take edits and critique as individual laws
Any notes or edits you receive, whether from beta readers or from an editor, are not meant to be acknowledged as absolutes. You know your story better than anyone ever will, so consider all feedback as feedback and apply it where it’s necessary. If you’re working with an editor, please discuss it with them so you can hear their defense. Provide your defense so they can see it from your perspective. We’re editors, not mind readers. We’re good at our job, but we still need your help to do it.
In the end, you make the choice, but discussing it allows the editor to either understand that they have to respect your decision or it provides further reasoning for you so you can make a better decision.
Next week, I’m going to go over a few more forms of editing, but these are not the basic three that people know about so they aren’t in this post. I’ll go over writing coaches, formatting, and proofreading. I didn’t want to cover them here because these aren’t part of the actual revision phase. Proofreading, to some editors, means something similar to copyediting, but it’s not. Don’t call that editor out on it—we all interpret words differently—but read through their processes and, next week, read through what these three can do for your book. Maybe you can do it yourself. Well, except the writing coach thing. 😉