There’s horrible truth in being an author, one which many won’t believe when they’re starting out: writing the book is the easy part!
Once you’ve got that first draft finished, it’s on to the editing – and that’s where the fun begins…
But what’s the process and where do you start? I hope this explanation helps.
This is the first stage of the process. It’s the big-picture work that involves looking at the story as a whole.
Sometimes called structural or content editing, the base components always include plot, structure, characterisation, pace, viewpoint, narrative style, and tense.
- Plot: This is the sequence of events that takes the reader from the beginning to the end.
- Structure: This determines how the plot is organised. Even if B occurred after A, the reader might learn about B before the events of A are unveiled.
- Characterisation: How characters are represented so we can make sense of their behaviour through the story.
- Pace: The speed at which the story unfolds. Effective pace ensures readers feel neither rushed nor bored. That doesn’t mean the pace remains steady; a story can include sections of fast-paced action and slower cool-downs.
- Viewpoint: In each chapter or section, readers should understand who the narrator is – whose eyes they are seeing through, whose emotions they have access to, whose voice dominates the narrative. It also means understanding the restrictions in play, so head-hopping doesn’t pull the reader out of the story.
- Narrative style: Is the narrative viewpoint conveyed in the first, second, or third person? The choice determines a narrative’s style.
- Tense: Is the story told in the present or the past tense? Each has its benefits and limitations.
The second step in the revision process and is all about the stylistic work.
A strong sentence elevates the story; a poorly crafted one can bury it. This level of editing revises for style, sense, and flow.
You might also hear it being referred to as substantive or stylistic editing, either way, your editor will address the following:
Character voice: Authenticity of phrasing and word choice.
- Character-trait consistency and unveiling.
- Clarity and consistency of viewpoint and narrative style.
- Cliché and awkward metaphor.
- Dialogue, and how it conveys voice, mood, and intention.
- Sentence pace and flow, with special attention to repetition and overwriting.
- Tenses, and whether they’re effective and consistent.
- Told versus shown prose (show and tell).
This third step is the technical side of sentence-level work and addresses the following:
- Chapter sequencing.
- Consistency of proper-noun spelling.
- Dialogue tagging and punctuation.
- Letter, word, line, and paragraph spacing.
- Logic of timeline, environment, and character traits.
- Spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, hyphenation, and capitalisation.
- Standard document formatting.
The final step of the process before publication. Every book, whether it’s being delivered in print or digitally, requires a final quality-control check.
A proofreader looks for literal errors and layout problems that slipped through the net or introduced at the design stage.
This is much more than typo hunting and should be done as the final job.
Proofreaders check for consistency of spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but also for layout mishaps such as (but not limited to) indentation, line spacing, inconsistent chapter drops, missing page numbers, and font and heading styles.
The art of good proofreading lies in knowing when to change and when to leave well enough alone. A good proofreader should understand the impact of their revisions – not only in relation to the knock-on effect on other pages but also to the cost if a third-party designer/formatter is part of the team.
I offer two unique services which I’ve combined and developed over the years to be as cost and time effective as possible for my authors. You can find out more here:
The guide below will give you an idea of the areas each level of service offers. You can download this as a PDF Creating Perfection – Levels of Editing
|Structural/Developmental editing||Line Editing||Copy-editing||Proofreading|
|Book Level||Sentence level||Sentence and word levels||Sentence, word, and layout levels|
|Chapter and scene structuring to enhance comprehension||Paragraph and section breaks||Paragraph and section breaks||Paragraph and section breaks|
|Relevance to intended audience||Appropriate grammar and syntax||Repetition of words and phrases||Correct page and chapter sequencing|
|Information – nothing missing from plot lines are there any unanswered questions?||Authentic phrasing||Clarity of meaning – are you saying what you want to say?||Word choice|
|Does the plot make sense?||Clarity of meaning – are you saying what you want to say?||Consistency in minor plot/character details||Dialogue punctuation|
|Characterisation – authentic and engaging||Clear dialogue||Word choice||Stacked hyphens|
|Point of view – consistent and unambiguous||Conciseness||Chapter sequencing||Basic formatting|
|Pace – is the reader’s experience optimised or hindered by the pace?||Consistency in plot/character details||Dialogue punctuation||Standard and consistent spelling and punctuation|
|Narrative flow – does the narrative drive the novel forward?||Word choice||Similarities in names, events, etc.||Standard grammar and syntax|
|Sentence flow||Standard and consistent spelling and punctuation||Indentation|
|Similarities in names, events, etc.||Standard grammar and syntax|