While you probably understand that you can’t become a published author if you don’t write the book, you should also know that you can’t publish a book without editing your book. Editing runs the gamut between the first draft and final draft and is often the most comprehensive part of the entire writing journey.
But with all the different terms being thrown around, how can you keep everything straight? Today, we’ll cover the difference between book edits and revisions, and the different types of editing you’ll likely encounter along the way.
Editing can be broken down in different ways, depending on who you ask, but we typically break it down into three categories: revisions, edits, and proofreading.
Revising Your Book Versus Editing Your Book
REVISIONS are massive overhauls on your manuscripts, including but not limited to adding, cutting, and moving scenes around. Sometimes these decisions are the hardest and most stressful to make, because adding and cutting scenes often forces you to rewrite or reconfigure the rest of the manuscript to ensure linear movement.
EDITING is when you rework individual paragraphs or a short sequence of paragraphs at one time, oftentimes adding or cutting small sections to better the structure and flow of your manuscript and overall enforce what you’re saying. These are less minor and don’t usually impact the manuscript’s overarching plot.
PROOFREADING focuses on the world-level mistakes within your manuscript, including things like spelling, grammar, and other common errors we overlook after we’ve read and reread our manuscript a dozen times over. Proofreading is almost always left until the very end when no other editing is required because doing it any sooner might mean having to redo it.
The Different Types of Story Editing
The Outline Critique
THE OUTLINE CRITIQUE happens before you’ve even started writing. This process is mainly for plotters who want that extra hands-on experience. Writers can work through their outline with the intention of working through any confusing scenes, spot any glaring plot holes before they become an issue, and elicit general feedback and advice.
This can be done with a friend or critique partner, but there are also paid opportunities.
These sessions are geared towards “unstucking” your novel and can be particularly helpful if you’re having trouble connecting scenes. The Outline Critique is different from the rest because it doesn’t have to be partnered with a professional editor; just a mentor or someone you trust to give honest feedback.
The next editing types require a full manuscript, meaning you will need to complete the writing and self-editing processes before moving passed this section. These additional steps might include writing the first draft, the self-editing process, and beta reader edits. By following these before moving forward, you can catch any major issues before the money leaves your pocket, since writing, self-editing, and beta readers don’t often cost more than your time and energy.
The Manuscript Evaluation
THE MANUSCRIPT EVALUATION helps you generally access your manuscript with careful attention to the plot and subplots. Though many edit letters include smaller issues, such as spelling, grammar, syntax, style inconsistencies, and pacing, a general manuscript evaluation will also include things like POV-related issues, dialogue, overall structure, and character development. This isn’t always as detailed, but it will depend on the editor. The Manuscript Evaluation is a general evaluation that encompasses a ton of overarching items, but it might be worth the time and money if you’re writing your first novel for publication.
Structural and Developmental Revisions
STRUCTURAL or DEVELOPMENTAL REVISIONS include big-picture items, like scene organization, content flow, sentence and paragraph structure, and general coherence. These edits often suggest things like deleting entire chapters or scenes or adding more in cases where more information is needed. Developmental Editing is often the most expensive, but it’s not only “worth it” but necessary if you plan on self-publishing your novel.
I’m serious. Don’t skip this step because you’re afraid of the price.
Line & Copy Edits
LINE & COPY EDITS are often used interchangeably, though they usually aren’t. Line edits are more stylistic and include edits that assist in clarification, tone, and dialogue. Copy edits are the most common type of edits, which include “critical” levels of editing that include consistency of style, mechanics, and facts—in fiction, that means anything world-specific.
There are rarely major manuscript changes during and after these edits are made. This of this as, like, the word editing, instead of the scene, paragraph, or sentence editing.
PROOFREADING is the last and final step in the editing process and is saved for when your novel is essentially market-ready. As in, no more changes are to be made and you’re just having an editor comb over your novel and pick out the smallest details to ensure your novel is ready, technically speaking.
While these are the basic type of edits most writers will encounter throughout their publishing journey, there are others, including:
A Sensitivity Reader
A SENSITIVITY READER, which is something that reads through your novel to ensure there’s no internalized bias, negatively charged language, and that you aren’t totally confining to stereotypes.
Fact and Reference Checking
For nonfiction works, you’ll also want another pair of eyes specifically for FACT and REFERENCE CHECKING to ensure accuracy, concise articulation, and consistency.
Watch out for book editing bundles!
Remember, many editors offer editing packages, so you may check out pricing before committing to one editor for one type of edit. That being said, you may need multiple rounds of the same edits—particularly, developmental edits—especially if you’re writing your first novel.
I often suggest two rounds of big-picture, developmental edits to completely flush out anything that was overlooked the first time around; and then work on copy and line edits, which often only need one round. Proofreading can often be bundled with previous edits or purchased separately as a standalone option.