Types of Edits Explained: Find out what your writing really needs

edits explained

This guest post is courtesy of editorial expert and industry insider, Britt Pflüger. She worked as a literary scout (someone who keeps an eye out for talented writers on behalf of foreign publishers) for for over 20 years before setting up her own literary consultancy, Hardy & Knox, in 2011 where she offers straight-forward no-nonsense editorial feedback and advice. She often works with authors who are right at the beginning of the writing process, who need expert help structuring their story, working out plot points or on other technical elements. She offers invaluable advice and guidance to authors at the very beginning of their writing process. Her recent editorial work includes the best-selling crime novel Double Dealing by Lisa Hartley and Piano from a 4th Storey Window by Jenny Morton Potts Let’s hear what she has to say about the different types of edits and who they are for.

Hardy & Knox logoBut editors are still the world’s readers. And thus the eye of the world,’ said poet and literary agent Betsy Lerner. Or, as Maxwell Perkins, the renowned editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, put it, ‘Just get it down on paper, and then we will see what to do with it.’ Perkins may have worked at famous New York publishing house Scribner in the first half of the twentieth century, nearly 100 years before self-publishing irrevocably changed the industry, but his words remain true today.
The emergence of online self-publishing in particular has made many a debut author question the role of an editor as that of gatekeeper to the Holy Grail of traditional publishing. But a good editor is so much more than that. A good editor will not only point you in the right direction when you don’t know where your plot is going, or save you from making poor style choices, or even iron out problems with your dialogue or characterisation, not to mention spelling and punctuation: a good editor will transform your manuscript from ordinary to extraordinary.

There are four types of edits:

Developmental editing will help you with your manuscript either in its early stages, based on a sample text and synopsis, or tell you whether the overall concept works based on the entire text. As a first port of call, I recommend our Slush Report.

Who is it for? The developmental edit is for authors just starting out with their story. They might only have a collection of ideas and no fixed plan for the story. They may have written a few chapters then got stuck. A developmental edit will help these new authors work out which of their ideas are the strongest and the best way forward for their manuscript.

Reader’s Reports
are ideal for writers who have already completed their manuscript and require a more in-depth assessment.

Who is it for? The Reader’s Report is for the type of author who has worked hard on their manuscript for a long time, got it into the best shape they think they can, tweaked it and are now ready for a critique by an industry professional, who will point out both the strengths and weaknesses and give lots of feedback on what the author could do to improve the story, writing style, characterisation etc. This is for authors who are happy to take all feedback onboard, positive and negative, and are prepared to rework their manuscript.

Substantive/structural editing 
is called for when you have completed your manuscript and are more or less happy with it but feel that you may need help with the overall plot, or aspects such as style, dialogue, characterisation etc. Your editor may ask you for clarification on certain points and will suggest alternatives.

Who is it for?

Some authors can start the editorial process at this stage, particularly if they have been getting feedback on their writing from a writers’ group or readers. This is for authors who feel they have already done everything in their power to the manuscript and are ready to pass it over to a professional editor who can improve it, make suggestions, help them to strengthen any poor areas etc.

involves more than just checking correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A copy-editor will point out weaknesses, inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and may even rewrite a clumsy sentence.

Who is it for?

This is for authors who think their work is pretty polished, all the heavy work is behind them but they just want their writing and story to flow as well as it could.

Note at I_AM Self-Publishing, they actually combine the substantive/structural edit with the copy-edit, to save authors both time and money. This means one editor will go through the manuscript, making corrections and suggestions on:

  • storytelling
  • writing technique and style
  • plot structure
  • pace
  • narrative flow
  • characterisation
  • use of dialogue
  • consistency of story and characters
  • factual accuracy
  • sentence structure and phrasing
  • vocabulary

To find out more click here.

Finally, a proofreader
comes in to go through the finished product with a fine-tooth comb to check headings, page numbers, and typeface styles, and make sure that corrections suggested by the copy-editor have been inserted properly.

Who is it for? Everyone. You cannot afford to skip this stage. It is important that you ensure all the little grammatical errors and typos are cleaned up before you publish. The last thing you want is your readers to be distracted by silly mistakes (and leave negative Amazon reviews). I_AM Self-Publishing’s experienced proofreaders are eagle-eyed and trained to spot errors in:

  • spelling
  • grammar
  • facts in the text
  • sense in the text
  • formatting
  • consistency of style choices

To find out more click here.

At a time when self-publishing is more popular than ever, the role of an editor remains invaluable if you want your book to stand out in a crowded market. Make sure it is as good as it can be. If you are not sure which edits are right for you, book in for our editorial audit below. An experienced editor will take a look at your sample chapter and synopsis and let you know which type of edit would be best for you.

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