Did you know there are four levels of editing?
Level 1: Developmental Editing
Developmental editing looks at the big picture items like plot, pacing, tone, point of view, character relatability and arcs, scene construction, and consistency of worldbuilding. This edit will also include assessing effectiveness of hooks and cliffhangers, lengths of chapters, storyline order, and that your message is clear.
What to expect from a developmental edit
The editor should write a report which includes what is great about your writing and your manuscript and what could be improved. This report can vary in length but is usually between three and ten pages.
Comments are placed within the manuscript to point out where your brilliance shines and specific issues that may need addressed.
The editor makes suggestions on how to improve your novel. Only if you discuss the scope and ask them to do it for you, they will only make suggestions.
So, what’s the point?
Developmental editing is invaluable.
Beta readers are great, but professional editors are trained. They not only know the tropes and can pick out issues with the big-ticket items, but they also know specifically how you can increase the reader experience and hit their expectations, to help you create the best story possible.
Level 2: Line Editing
This round is exactly what it sounds like. Each line is assessed for its necessity, intent, clarity, etc. In this round, the editor will change or suggest changes to improve flow from one sentence and paragraph to the next. They will offer better word choices, more varied sentence structure, and eliminate unnecessary dialogue tags, and much more.
What to expect from a line edit
In all honesty, you will probably get back a manuscript that looks like it has been hacked. But don’t lose hope. Line editors are using a microscope to find ways to improve your novel. From the color shock alone, it may feel like your writing must be atrocious, but chances are, the better you are, the closer they are looking. Their goal is to lift your writing to the next level.
Suggestion: Change the document’s track changes from red to blue or purple! It's easier to read and absorb than the typical red. I edit in blue for exactly this reason. But if you don't have your colors changed, when I send it, it will still be in red.
Level 3: Copyediting
Copyediting is the type of editing most people are familiar with, correcting grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. But it also includes some sentence restructuring and selective word choices to ensure clarity and conciseness.
Consider this the tightening up phase.
What to expect from a copyedit
There should be much less red (or whatever color you choose) than in the line editing round.
Copy editors make smaller adjustments to sentence structure, decreasing repetitiveness, and ensuring consistency.
Level 4: Proofreading
Like copy editors, proofreaders check for punctuation, spelling, and consistency of capitalization and use of italics and quotation marks. They also look at chapter and page numbering, page and scene breaks, indentions, typeface, and front matter are formatted properly.
Not all editors offer proofreading, as it is a specialized skill.
What to expect from a proofread
You should expect minor adjustments to the text, most of which will be non-negotiable, like periods or single spaces between sentences. So, there won’t be many changes for you to approve or reject in this round.
You will mostly accept the final tweaks before publication, but the final decision is always yours.
Each Level is Essential
I realize money is always a factor, yet each level is necessary to prepare your novel for the world to appreciate.
If you are skilled in some of these areas, that's great! DIY is an option for you. Still, it's best to hire a professional for the levels you aren't comfortable with.
Developmental - Big Picture
Line - Sentence Level
Copy - Grammar
Proofreading - Minute Details
I hope you enjoyed this post!
I'm a fiction editor, specializing in developmental, line, and copy editing for speculative fiction.
Write in these genres? Let's chat!
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