I think I was born an educator. It’s the only way to explain what editing means to me and how I go about doing my job as an editor. My goal is never just to clean up a story and send the client on his or her way. My goal is to spread teachable moments throughout the editing process–through the changes I suggest and the comments I make–so that the writer will learn from those moments and not only revise the story into a stronger, better one, but will also use these lessons in future works, making those stories better in the first draft.
What I Edit
I edit novels, novellas, short stories, non-fiction, articles, essays, interviews, and academic works (articles, proposals, theses, and dissertations). I don’t edit works over 200k. In regards to fiction, I have edited several genres to include mystery, chick lit, romance, Christian fiction, urban, fantasy, sci-fi, and literary. In regards to non-fiction, I have edited Christian, self-help, and memoirs, to name a few.
What I Use When I Edit
I have an arsenal of sources I use to edit; however, these are the sources that stay close to me when in the throes of a good edit.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition
APA Manual, 6th Edition
MLA Handbook, 7th Edition (soon to be 8th edition!)
The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, 3rd Edition
What You Can Expect from an Edit
I do a few things when I edit. We could call these proofreading, copy editing, and content editing. Below, I will define each, and then I will provide you “in my own words” how I come to the page as an editor.
Proofreading, Copy Editing, Content Editing
Proofreading – As you approach the finish line of polishing your manuscript, you will enter the proofreading zone. With proofreading, I assume your manuscript has gone through content editing and copy editing. There may be residual errors that squeaked through, like spelling, grammar, and tense and incorrect usage, and those will be reviewed in this stage. In addition, an examination of issues, such as correct use of white space (between sentences, with margins, with widows and orphans, etc.); consistency with table of contents and chapter titles, headings, and subheadings; and typographical errors will be performed. Here’s a great way to think about proofreading. When I taught writing, whether it was English Composition or Writing for the Media, I always told students that when they felt a piece was ready to be turned in, they needed to do one final thing: read their piece aloud from end to beginning, one sentence at a time. By doing this, you’re not focusing on the overall content of a piece. You are focusing on clarity of each sentence, formatting of each sentence, and any errors that might still linger within each sentence. That’s why I, as proofreader, will do for your project.
Copy Editing – A main goal of copy editing is to improve a manuscript’s consistency. This can include performing research to check facts within a manuscript. This can also include reviewing the consistency of mechanics of style and standardizing grammar, punctuation, and spelling. A client may feel her story is developed well, with strong characters and pacing that keeps readers reading. However, there may be places within the text where I will need to correct the story’s flow by reorganizing content. Because I use Track Changes in Word, the client always has final say in how content will look in the completed manuscript. This edit includes in-text edits/comments and, if necessary, an evaluation memo to note any key issues found within the manuscript that need your attention prior to moving to the proofreading stage.
Content Editing – Content editing is about digging into the heart of your manuscript. It makes no sense to first review things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling if the project is underdeveloped and unorganized. Here, examination of the manuscript’s overall, and chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene, development is reviewed. We want the first page, first chapter of the story to draw in readers. We want scenes and chapters to set the stage and to provide intrigue for readers, and to end in a way that urges readers to the next scene or chapter. We want dialogue that reveals characters. We want conflict that escalates. We want a clean, well-written and well-developed story that will make readers happy to have read YOUR book. In the content-editing stage, I tend to focus first on information I gather from you at the start of our talks: title, genre, story description, your concerns, etc. With that material in mind, I think about your manuscript’s purpose, its audience, and I examine the project to make sure it connects with those two things. In fiction, this means examining elements, such as character and plot development, setting, point of view, style, etc. Are there plot holes? Is there more telling than showing? Do your scenes have great in and out points? For non-fiction projects, like self-help books, this includes reviewing your book’s purpose and then each section of your book to make sure each section fits your purpose and audience and is developed enough for your audience. This also includes possibly suggesting other components for your book that would be a benefit to your readers, such as end-of-chapter questions and/or exercises. This edit includes both in-text edits/comments and an evaluation memo complete with comments on what works well and what minor and significant issues were found and suggestions on how to correct those issues in revisions.
Coming to the Page as Your Editor
First, I look at the story. If there is no story, then it doesn’t matter how well or horrible a story is written. I edit looking to make sure structure is strong, that there are well-developed characters, good dialogue, building tension, and consistency throughout, among other things. If there is a story present, then all the other things can be worked on and finessed. Although this is something I examine in all works, when a writer tells me that a book has not been edited or that he or she worries about these storytelling components, then there is a major focus in this area.
Second, I look at other ways in which the manuscript can be improved. This includes locating places where the story lags and the need for rewriting or adding to the story exists, reorganizing material in the story, the occasional rewriting of a passage, and making suggestions on how to go about doing these things. It is important for a client to know that I know s/he is the author of the work. As such, I don’t tell the client what MUST be done unless there are glaring issues and omissions. My goal is to provide suggestions and advice (once I clean the story) that will enable the client, as author, to revise/write the story s/he envisions. So, in regards to this editing, a client can expect to see many comments in the document.
Third, I look at “cleaning up” the manuscript–tackling those mechanical and grammatical issues that any manuscript will have.
Lastly, I tend to provide readerly comments throughout the manuscript. What are readerly comments? Well, I attempt to make myself the average reader for your type of work when I sit before the manuscript to edit. As I’m reading/editing, there will be moments when I feel and think things about the characters, the situations that occur in the book, and when those feelings and thoughts are very strong, I am compelled to make comments about those spots. Why? Well, one reason is it’s comedic relief for the client who has just had his or her literary baby edited. The more important reason is it’s always great to have reader feedback in those pre-publication days. By seeing what I think/feel about a character or a plot point, you can gauge that against what your intentions were as the writer and decide if there are any changes you need to make to the manuscript.
How I Edit
I prefer to edit electronically and to receive manuscripts in Word. I use both Track Changes and Comments features within Word.
Need an Edit?
If you are looking for an editor for your work, please fill out this short form. Once I receive your message, I will read and respond as soon as possible.
Manuscripts should be completed before inquiring about editorial services.
To the best of your abilities, the manuscript should be formatted correctly. If you are submitting a manuscript that is already laid out, then you may submit the manuscript as is. However, for most manuscripts, you should adhere to the following format conventions:
1″ margins all around
Times New Roman or Courier 12 point font
Each chapter starting on a new page
Dialogue formatting – typically new dialogue starts on its own line, indented, with quotation marks around the dialogue.
I take my editing seriously, and I take my role as teacher of the writing craft seriously.
I’ve edited many genres, from chick lit to street fiction, from erotica to mystery, from sci-fi to Christian fiction.
Let me help you make your work stand out in a crowd.
Again, if you are looking for an editor for your work, please fill out this short form.
NOTE: Editing, coaching, and manuscript evaluation are not guarantees that your work will be accepted by an agent or a publishing house. However, your writing WILL be stronger!