As a fellow writer, I'll be first to admit it took me a while to get the hang of the different types of editing packages available out there, and even more specifically, which is the best one for me. So I'll start by sharing a little, hard-earned lesson: ask your questions. If you're not sure what to pick, ask me. Send me an email, I don't bite! And we can discuss where your novel is at and what might be the best course of action for you going forward.
And if you're still unsure, ask me for a sample of what each editing service looks like. I know what it's like seeing those prices and wondering if it's a good idea. But another little thing I learned? Editing is an investment you're making into your writing. And as my good friend and thriller author Eldon Farrell says, "This is an investment your future self will thank you for making!"
All great and good, but what are the different editing services out there?
If you’ve just finished your novel and want an honest, professional opinion on it, but are not yet ready to delve into the dark webs of editing, then you’ll want to find a beta reader. Beta readers exist all over reading groups, on Goodreads, or in trusted author communities. The difference with what I offer? Is that not only do I write in various genres, but I also read in them. Any reader will be able to tell you they enjoy X part of the novel and not Y part… but a good beta reader will point out everything that’s right and wrong with the story, and offer solutions.
Developmental/ Content editing
A developmental edit is, one can say, the first real stage of your editing. It focuses on the big picture issues and character development, as well as the overall story arc. Does the story make sense? Are there loopholes? Did you contradict yourself somewhere?
If you’re wondering what the difference between this and beta reading is, the answer is in what you, as a writer, get back. A beta reading will generally get you either a list of your questions answered with a few additional notes (I always provide an editorial report).
A developmental edit, on the other hand, means you’ll be getting your manuscript back with comments and tracked changes, as well as an editorial report. It’s an in-depth review of your entire novel that looks at the story, the characters, yes, but also the writing style, the structure of the story, grammar/punctuation, etc. I go more in depth on what my developmental editing package contains further below, but in a nutshell, it's the ultimate fix-all for your novel because you get the beta, the dev edits, a basic copy/line editing and a basic proofread - in short, it's a 4-in-1!
Most developmental edits will focus on the structure of the story as well. But if this is something that you’re unsure of – maybe you have both present and past timelines in your story, and you’re not sure if you should divide it into parts, flashbacks, or whatnot – then you can ask me for a full structural edit. This is a custom order and will be discussed on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, a basic structural editing is included in my developmental editing package as well.
Copy and line editing
In technical terms, copy editing and line editing are different. Lately, a lot of editors seem to combine them into one service, and it’s usually the most popular outside of developmental edits. What’s important to know is that at this stage, the story is meant to be completely “fixed”, and both copy and line editing focus on the writing itself.
Copy-editing will bring the final manuscript to a more professional standard, in that it will improve consistency (UK vs US spelling), coherency (by rewriting fragmented sentences), clarity (fixing unclear expressions) and fix the typos (but is not a full proofread – that’s an editing stage on its own!). Copy editors will look at spelling and grammar, but will mainly focus on dialogue tags, repetitions, word usage, POV and tenses, and descriptive inconsistencies.
Line editing, on the other hand, focuses on the flow of your prose, and the writing style itself. If an editor offers a line editing package, and you have an issue with dialogue tags, you may want to consider a full copy editing package instead. After all, line editing would focus on the strengthening of the prose itself, i.e. creative content.
Proofreading is, quite literally, the last pair of eyes on your novel. It’s the last polish, the last crossing of the Ts and dotting of the Is and taking care of all those pesky commas! Extremely meticulous and detail-oriented, this last level of editing is a must for all concerned.