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How to Find the Right Editor for Your Book, part 1/3

Greek-style yogurt. Swiss-style yogurt. Soy-based lactose- and sugar-free yogurt.

Ever stared helplessly at the dairy shelves, stumped over what variety to select?

Choosing an editor can seem just as daunting as facing the Great Wall of Yogurts. With so many editors available, how can you decide who is right for you and your project?

Asking yourself a few simple questions will help you make your selection.

Question 1: What “variety” of editing do you need?

Just as with yogurt, editing comes in many varieties. Knowing what type of editing your project needs will help you whittle down the number of editors to choose from. Although different editors and editing organizations can name these editing varieties differently, for fiction, they come down to four basic types:

  • Developmental editing:
    • comes after you’ve finished a draft (or dozen) of your manuscript and either before or after you’ve test-run it on beta readers
    • focuses on the “big picture” issues of fiction—structure, plot, characterization, point of view, dialogue, world building, setting, pacing, themes, overall expression
    • entails in-text comments using Track Changes (in Word) and an editorial report
    • helps you revise your manuscript so you’ll be ready to move on to the next  “varieties” of editing
  • Stylistic (or line) editing:
    • addresses matters of expression at the sentence level—clarity, coherence, and flow
    • maintains your style and voice
    • ensures your ideas aren’t lost amid awkward syntax or misused idioms, improving readability to keep your audience engaged
  • Copy editing:
    • addresses all those pesky mechanical issues, ensuring that your writing adheres to standard conventions of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage (while noting when alternatives are appropriate for context or the voice of the narrator or characters)
    • ensures accuracy and consistency
    • ensures that your manuscript follows the selected style guide (in North America, most often The Chicago Manual of Style [CMOS] for fiction)
    • creates a customized style sheet (useful for the proofreader) to note any selections among alternatives or authorial choices that deviate from the norm
  • Proofreading:
    • examines material in its final format just before printing/ publishing (usually in Adobe PDF)
    • corrects typos, design problems (such a bad syllable breaks at the ends of lines), and any errors that slipped past the copy edit stage or were accidentally introduced during typesetting/design

So relax! Knowing where you are in your manuscript-writing journey and what areas you could use help with will allow you to home in on the right variety of editing. And if you’re still uncertain, a good copy editor can evaluate a sample of your material and point you in the right direction. That “Great Wall of Editors” isn’t so daunting after all. 🙂


Next up: Part 2: What “flavour” of editor do you need?


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