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What Kind of Editing Does Your Book Need?

Updated: Mar 25

Most people think that editors are grammar nerds armed with 10-pound dictionaries, a hoard of red pens, and a mission to turn all your “whos” into “whoms.”


Okay, this is sort of accurate. But also short-sighted.


When someone outside of the literary world (and sometimes inside, too) hears the word “editor,” what they’re probably thinking of is a copyeditor, which is just one type of editing that writers want and look for. But there are many other types of editing that are just as important to the creative process. What kind of editing your manuscript needs depends entirely on the stage it’s in.


Here are the most important types of book editing:


Copyediting

Yeah, yeah, we’ve talked about this one already, but it’s important to know exactly what a copyeditor’s job actually entails so that you know what to expect. In a nutshell, if you submit your MS to a copyeditor, get ready for the grammatical smackdown of your life.


Copyeditors live, breathe, and understand with almost obsessive accuracy how grammar works. They tackle spelling errors, dangling modifiers, split infinitives, and unclear antecedents with merciless exactitude. With a wave of their red pen, they’ll turn your sloppy sentence into the sweetest auditory milkshake.


But a copyeditor is so much better and so much more than any grammar software or spellcheck on your word processor for one very important reason: they’re human. And because they’re human, they understand and do their utmost to preserve:

  • Linguistic nuance

  • Slang (even fictional slang)

  • Intentional use of language (i.e. keeping incorrect use of “who” or “whom” if your character doesn’t know the difference)

  • Context

  • Tone

They do this better than any godforsaken robot. Copyeditors are hell-bent on preserving your unique voice, which is one of the hardest things to pin down for any writer and all the more reason to hire a professional.


Developmental Editing

Picture your fictional world as a snow globe. Everything about your story is contained within the glass dome, from character and story arcs to lore and plot twists. A developmental editor grabs hold of that snow globe and shakes up, turns it around, inspects the contents in its entirety, and makes sure that it is the best-looking snow globe you can make.


Okay, not the best analogy.


In other words, a developmental editor is all about the big picture. If you have overarching concerns about your plot, main character, or even themes, a DE is a professional advice-giver. Usually backed by years of experience as a professional reader, they understand what can make a story work on a macro level. They are not preoccupied so much you’re your spelling or grammar mistakes, however, they may mention that you need to clean up sloppy prose in their evaluation.


Consider hiring a developmental editor in Toronto if you need help with the following:

  • Story structure

  • Pacing

  • Audience (does it change from chapter to chapter? Are some of the themes too mature for a YA reader)

  • Weak points in the plot

  • Inconsistencies of character

  • Other issues that might make publishers think twice about answering a query letter


Substantive Editing

Somewhere in between copyeditors and developmental editors are substantive editors, which look at your storyline by line and watch out for major and minor inconsistencies in your story. There is some substantive editing involved in the developmental process, particularly because SEs also pay a lot of attention to pacing, flow, and issues with structure.


While there may be some copyediting involved, a substantive editor is more focused on the lines on the page, how they fit, and whether or not you need to do some intense housekeeping. Substantive editors are also going to spend some time fact-checking and ensuring your characters’ appearance or names don’t inexplicably change halfway through the story.


In short, a SE editor can help you with the following:

  • Formatting

  • Paragraphs (too many chunky paragraphs can read like a history textbook instead of a novel; an SE will rearrange your sentences to make them more readable)

  • Inconsistencies in plot or character

  • Fact-checking

  • Inappropriate language for target reader

  • Plagiarism

From the nitty-gritty to the bird’s eye view, a book editor’s feedback is crucial to the creative process. No matter what kind of editing you need, a good editor will always treat your baby—err, I mean, your story—with the utmost care. I work with writers across the globe, but if you're looking for an editor in Toronto, contact me today, and we'll schedule an in-person meeting!

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