I love editing as much as I love writing. Writing is throwing the clay on the potter’s wheel. Editing is everything that happens afterward.
When you put your heart on the written page as a first draft, that’s writing. As you begin to work through your writing, adding words here, subtracting words there, enhancing imagery, drawing out subtle meaning, bringing scenes to life, tying themes together – all of that is editing. The writer does most of that himself or herself.
Layer upon layer of editing is what makes a finished piece of writing seem effortless. Editing adds texture, color, brilliance, and depth. Editing is a creative process just like writing. Yet, it honors, treasures, and keeps intact all that the writer has imparted up to that moment. Editing is a wonderful art. A good editor loves to encourage writers and to fall in love with their stories.
As you look for an editing service to help you polish your manuscript, you will find two kinds: substantive editing and line editing.
Substantive editing comes first in the process. In a substantive edit, the editor looks at the content and structure: Are all the pieces in place? Should parts of the work be rearranged? What is missing? Where can the strengths be strengthened even more? How can we bring the weak areas into their full promise?
When you submit your manuscript for a substantive edit, it must be as complete and polished as possible. A substantive edit is not a substitute for the work that you, the writer need to do. When an editor begins to work on a substantive edit of your manuscript, he or she should be reading your best work to that point.
Line editing comes next, after the manuscript is structurally sound and is close to publishable. In line editing, the editor looks to polish the style and grammar, so your writing flows more easily and produces greater impact. Not only will the editor smooth out the grammar; he or she will also create variations in sentence length and structure, to enhance the rhythm of your content.
It is important to note that line editing is not the same as proofreading. While a good editor is careful to review his or her work, a line edited manuscript should never be considered final. A proofreader, who has never seen the manuscript, needs to look at it with a fresh eye. This is because, as you read a manuscript multiple times, your eyes and brain will actually “correct” mistakes. You can be looking at a typo but your brain will see it as “correct.”
A proofreader does not edit or make suggestions. Your proofreader works strictly to proofread the final copy and moves through it word by word. That should be the last step that happens before you submit a manuscript for publication.
A good editor is part of your team. The editor should pay close attention, and with great respect, to the work you have crafted. The editor’s job is not to alter, but rather to polish that treasure so it shines. A good editor will not try to make your manuscript his or hers, but rather the very best version of yours.
That being said, it is also the editor’s job to draw your best work out of you, and that is not always easy for a writer to take. A good editor will be respectful and caring, but will also be tough and thorough. He or she will hold your manuscript to the highest standard and will expect much from you as a writer.
It is hard for a writer to have the structure of his or her manuscript questioned, or to have precious words crossed out. You need to be ready; don’t submit your work for editing if you’re not.
If you are not ready for this level of editing … if you need help with shorter pieces … or if you need guidance as you take your first steps in writing, you may want to consider a coaching or critiquing service for writers instead. Those are often a better starting place for new writers.
I hope these tidbits have helped as your manuscript moves closer to the editing stage. Remember: the first layers of editing begin with you, the writer. You may go through several rounds of self-editing before it is time to bring in an editor.
Be inspired, and keep writing. People are waiting to read what you have to share.