Last updated on November 16, 2017
A New Feature
Welcome to the first episode of Ask the Editor, a feature where I—the editor, of course—answer your questions on writing, editing, and self-publishing. I’ll be doing this via YouTube but will be posting all of the videos here on the Wordy Speculations blog as well.
Our First Question: What Kind of Editor Do I Need?
Do you ever get confused about all of the different kinds of fiction editing that are available? Do you wonder where in your process you need each kind, if at all? I answer those questions and more in this episode. Enjoy!
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Episode Transcript [a.k.a. Not Grammatically Correct. I think I need a Speech Editor. ☺]
Hey, writers! My name is Janell, and welcome to Ask the Editor!
I am a fiction editor, and I am here to answer your questions about writing, editing and self-publishing.
Today, we’re going to start out with a very common question among writers and that is: What kind of editor do I need? Everybody tells me I have to get an editor, but what do they mean? I see a billion names out there for editors, so I don’t know where to start.
And did you know that edit is a very hard word to say? Especially editor and editing.
Anyway, let’s get to the point. There are three main types of fiction editor you’re going to be looking for.
The first one is a developmental or structural editor, and they all have a second name, so just forgive me. Sometimes a third name because one of the issues in editing is that a lot of times people can’t decide which name should be which.
So bear with me, and when you’re looking for an editor, always check their web page or even send them an email or a message through their Facebook page and say “What does your developmental editing include?” That way, you’re always clear, and you don’t get back something you didn’t expect.
So, we have developmental editing, we have line or copy editing, and we have proofreading, so let’s get into each one of those.
#1: Developmental or structural editing. This is story editing. It’s big picture editing. It’s saying, does my story work, are my characters flat, is the ending believable or does it feel contrived? And what can I do about it? “My timing is all off.” “My readers hate my flashbacks.”
So those are the kind of questions that a developmental or structural editor will approach, and they will give you suggestions. They should give you resources. They cover pacing, chronology, characterization, plotting, all of those things, theme, if those are the problems in in your book or your short story. (Editors edit short stories too.) If those are your problems, then you need a developmental editor.
So the second kind of editor is what most people think of when they think of editing, and they think, “It’s the grammar police!” They’re talking about copy editing. Line editing is often wrapped in with copy editing, and it’s sort of a more deep sort of copy editing, but I’ll get into that.
So, copy editing is grammar, punctuation, style, things like that. A lot of people use the Chicago Manual of style as their guide because they give you answers to questions like “Should I capitalize captain here?” and they’ll say, yes, capitalize captain if it’s in front of a name like “Captain Murphy” but not when it’s all by itself. So that’s copy editing.
Now line editing is a little deeper because it includes fixing sentences, not because there’s something
technically wrong but because they sound better, so fixing flow. [Making sure that every] like maybe this sentence would go better at the top of this paragraph than in the middle.
So those are things that a line editor would cover.
And lot of editors, including myself, usually do them together because it just works, you know. But you should definitely ask your editor, so you know if you just want copy editing: you only want the very—you like your sentences just the way they are, that you don’t care what they think about your flow—and you just want to make sure that you don’t have typos or actual errors in there.
Okay, so not to get too deep into that, but the third kind of editing (3) is proofreading. Proofreading is probably the most misunderstood type of editing. This is a good way to remember: proofreading actually means reading the proof, and the proof is your formatted book. It is formatted for ebook, or it is formatted for print, and it is almost ready to go. You know, you have a cover ready and everything.
So proofreading is reading that proof to check for last-minute errors like, you know, maybe the copy editor missed something. It does happen. Because your copy editor can make twenty thousand, a hundred thousand changes to your manuscript because we’re talking about commas and spaces and all kinds of things, but they might miss one, or maybe [errors were introduced] when you were putting corrections in from the editor because you should always have a choice whether you accept a change or not.
That’s why I always use track changes. So maybe you’re putting in those changes, and you make another mistake. It happens to the best of us, so proofreading catches those kind of things. They should be last-minute light edits.
So, if you ask somebody, if you finish your first draft, you haven’t done any revisions, you never sent it to a beta reader or anything, and then you send it to somebody, and say “I need a proofread.” And they’re thinking of what I was just talking about, but you’re thinking of actual copy editing or even story editing, then you’re probably gonna get it back with a note about “Excuse me, but you really need a copy editor, not a proofreader.” That’s what they mean. Yeah, it’ll catch little things like, you know, typos.
So, those are the three types of editing you’re most going to commonly see for fiction books or short stories and even memoirs. They pretty much cover creative nonfiction as well. So there’s developmental and structural editing, line or copy editing, and proofreading.
So, I hope that helps you to clarify what the stages are. Often, people will have all three; sometimes they’ll just have one. Sometimes, they feel like most of the edits were caught during copy editing. They can’t afford another stage, or you know. Sometimes people have all three. Some people just have one. It’s up to you, really, and where you want your story to go.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this video and to find out more about me please see the links in the description. And also you can find out more about my own book because you know, we all have one. We’re writers; that’s why we’re here, right?
But my nonfiction book is Saving Money on Editing & Choosing the Best Editor. It’s actually one of my nonfiction books, but the other one does not apply to writing, so this book will help you clean up your manuscript, just make it a better manuscript before you send it to the editor. Because we all want our books to be the best they can but also how to find an editor without getting scammed because, in the age of the internet, you know, [we’re] there’s a lot of people out there hanging up their shingle and saying “I’m an editor,” which means/translates into “I got an A in English,” which, you know, does not mean that they’ve been working for publishers and authors for 20 years or something like that. You really need to find out who your editor is, and this book is a great guide for that.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email or hit my contact page or send me a question on Twitter or Facebook. I will leave all those links below. Thanks for watching! Bye-bye.