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Step into the Inner Sanctum: Behind the book editing veil. Line Editing.

Updated: Jan 4

Where I draw the line.

In this series, you’re going to see behind the curtain as I reveal the editing process!


My goal is the same as yours: to publish the best book possible.


You’ve heard about copyediting and proofreading. But line editing? What’s that?


Line editing comes before the copyediting stage and is more intense.


We line editors concentrate on improving your novel, enhancing clarity, maintaining consistency, refining language, and possibly, polishing dialogue. We will restructure sentences, select stronger verbs, and decrease repetition.


Whew, that's a lot!


It also takes some time. You may not get the edited manuscript back for two to three months! I know, it's difficult to wait when you're so excited about your book, but we go over every paragraph, every sentence, every transition. We consider our suggestions carefully and thoughtfully.


We also provide you with an objective, professional perspective and concentrate reader’s experience in mind and aim to keep your style and voice.


While we make changes within your fiction manuscript, our suggestions aren’t set in stone. We expect you to reject some. You have the final decision on each suggestion. By reviewing our suggestions and explanations, you will improve your writing craft!


Near the end of this article, I show you what to expect when you get your manuscript back from a line editor. But first, I want to explain the line editing process.


Improving Style


Line editors help you by refining your writing style through making suggestions to improve the overall tone, voice, and mood of your manuscript.


The goal: to enhance your unique voice without changing it.


We want you to enhance your writing skills along the way. Many suggestions will have explanations, so you understand why we chose to make an adjustment and use that knowledge as you revise and write your next fiction novel!


Enhancing Clarity


We reduce ambiguities and restructure confusing sentences.


The goal: to ensure your meaning is conveyed clearly to your readers.


Maintaining Consistency


We pay close attention to character’s names, physical descriptions, voices, and personalities throughout the novel, as well as settings and timelines.


The goal: to help readers follow the narrative and increase the believability of your story.


Refining Language


We assess the language you use in your novel. We make technical corrections but keep your stylistic choices.


The goal: to enhance the overall flow and readability of your story.


Polishing Dialogue


Line editors focus on ensuring your dialogue is engaging, realistic, and effective.


The goal: to have your dialogue be authentic, impactful, and serve the story and character development.


We don't want to put words in or take them out of your characters' mouths, so there won't be as many changes to dialogue. We may ask or point out things that could be improved in our comments. Maybe we think your characters sound too much alike or that the dialogue could be more reveal more about the character. We will comment if the conversations don't seem effective enough and explain why.


We line editors play a crucial role in refining and enhancing your craft and increasing your readers’ enjoyment. By focusing on style, clarity, and consistency, we help you get your messages to your readers with an engaging and immersive story.


Example of what a line edit looks like


This line editing example is from a story I wrote, so I’m not breaking an author’s confidentiality. 😊


What is in the brackets would actually be in a comment on the side of the document.


The bell for the last period of the day chimed, and she Sarah bent down to collectcollected her bag from the floor. Her hands slid, sliding her hands over her cowgirl boots, checking to make sure her kukris were still in their spotsthere. [Or maybe: ensuring her kukris were in place.]


One of her moms had given them gave the knives to her as a gift for protection. Her other mom had sewn sewed holders [Word choice. holders or loops?] on the inside ofin her boots so she would could always have them with her. [Maybe, ‘for easy access.’] Sarah never left the house without themher knives. [Could remove the last sentence if the previous sentence is kept as is or if the suggestion is taken, it will imply she doesn’t leave without them.]


She swung her pack over her shoulder and stoodheaded for the door. Almost out the door, her teacher called her back.

“Sarah, is everything alright?” her teacher called.


“Look, I know you just started a couple weeks ago, and maybe no one told you, but my mom died a few months ago. Cut me some slack.” She turned and ducked out of the classroom door.


Keeping her head down, she made her way down the hall andit outside without anyone talking to her. The bright sunshine made her squint. She looked up and immediatelyShe looked at the bright sun and sneezed. “Damn sun,” she said and .”


She turned right onto the sidewalk in front of Brenwood Senior High. [Is it important she turns right?] Why anyone would build a six storysix-story school in the middle of town was beyond her. She put her earbuds in and scrolled for one of her favorite songs. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gee’s blasted in her eardrums as she started the five-block walkwalked five blocks to her home.


Rounding the corner, she stopped.She stopped at the last corner. Three, she saw three black SUVs blocking the blocked her street. One was directly in front of her house. The other two were angled over the curb. [Please clarify their positions. It’s stated they blocked the street, but this sounds more like they are blocking her house.] Her mother was in handcuffs, and two people led Two people were leading her mother to the center vehicle. She looked like she was in handcuffs.

What the. . .?


A black McLaren 720S screeched to a halt next to her. The passenger window opened, and a red-headed woman leaned over. “Get in.”


“What?”


“Get. In.”


Sarah raised her hands and waved them. “No.”“No,” Sarah said, waving her hands in front of her. She made a move to cross the streetstepped off the curb, and the car inched forward.


“Unless you want to be taken with your mom, get in!”


She looked to at her house, and the SUV’s weren’t movingSUVs hadn’t moved. One person dressedA person in a white suit lit a cigarette on her stoop. It didn’t look like he was going to leave anytime soon.


Sarah opened the car door and slid in. “Who are you? What’s going on?” The woman made a U-turn, without saying a word and sped to the next block, and hung a right.


The car sounded amazing. Sarah loved to Sarah, who loves supercars as much as her mother. [Maybe let the reader know which mother this is. The one who’s in handcuffs or the one who’s passed on.], her mother, did as they sped down a side street. She thought theywere headed for the highway, but they went instead, into what the people in town calledThe car raced down a side street, under the old railroad tracks, and into the bad side of town. Comparatively to big cities ‘bad sides,’ she thought itIt was just a rundown neighborhood, long forgotten. There were more crimesThough more crimes were committed there than any other place in Brenwood, but the crime rate was still low. [Consider cutting the last sentence. Sarah doesn’t return to this neighborhood, so it doesn’t seem important to the storyline.]


Sarah turned in her seat and leaned against the door. “Where are we going?”


The red head placed a finger on Sarah’s forehead. and said, “Sleep.”


What it reads like after the line edit


The bell for the last period of the day chimed, and Sarah bent collected her bag from the floor. Her hands slid over her cowgirl boots, checking her kukris were still there.


One of her moms gave the knives to her for protection. Her other mom sewed holders in her boots so she could always have them with her. Sarah never left the house without her knives.


She swung her pack over her shoulder and headed for the door.


“Sarah, is everything alright?” her teacher called.


“Look, I know you just started a couple weeks ago, and maybe no one told you, but my mom died a few months ago. Cut me some slack.” She turned and ducked out.


Keeping her head down, she made it outside without anyone talking to her. She looked at the bright sun and sneezed. “Damn sun,” she said and turned right on the sidewalk in front of Brenwood Senior High. Why anyone would build a six-story school in the middle of town was beyond her. She put her earbuds in and scrolled for one of her favorite songs. “Stayin’ Alive” blasted in her eardrums as walked five blocks to her home.


She stopped at the last corner. Three black SUVs blocked her street. One was directly in front of her house. The other two were angled over the curb. Her mother was in handcuffs, and two people led her mother to the center vehicle.

What the?


A black McLaren 720S screeched to a halt next to her. The passenger window opened, and a red-headed woman leaned over. “Get in.”


“What?”


“Get. In.”


“No,” Sarah said, waving her hands in front of her. She stepped of the curb, and the car inched forward.


“Unless you want to be taken with your mom, get in!”


She looked at her house, and the SUVs hadn’t moved. A person in a white suit lit a cigarette on her stoop. It didn’t look like he was going to leave anytime soon.


Sarah opened the car door and slid in. “Who are you? What’s going on?” The woman made a U-turn, sped to the next block, and hung a right.


The car sounded amazing. Sarah loved supercars as much as her mother, Clara. The car raced down a side street, under the old railroad tracks into the bad side of town. It was just a rundown neighborhood, long forgotten. Though more crimes were committed there than any other place in Brenwood, the crime rate was still low.


Sarah turned in her seat and leaned against the door. “Where are we going?”


The red head placed a finger on Sarah’s forehead and said, “Sleep.”



Getting line edits back can be a little overwhelming with the amount of suggested changes, but I hope you see how the narrative reads clearer and more concise.


Is this edit perfect? No, but it should read better. Since line edits are the second editing round, it's not going to be publishing ready.


You will accept or reject the edits. You'll probably rewrite some sentences to solve the issues the way you want to.


In the next step in the editing process, the copyedit, smaller adjustments will be made to the narrative.


A fiction editor puts a lot of effort into line edits. We hope our suggestions are seriously considered, but in the end, it’s your choice to keep the changes, change it back to the original, or rewrite to fit your vision.


When hiring an editor, it’s important they understand your vision for your work and mesh with your style. I suggest all authors get a sample edited and meet with the editor before hiring them.


The author-editor relationship is special. If you’re planning on writing more than one fiction book, the relationship could be long lasting, so you want to make sure you respect and understand each other and communicate well.


Happy writing and editing!


Kristin Noland - Speculative Fiction and Crime Fiction Editor


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