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  • C. W. Johnston

Editing Yourself? Think Again.

Updated: Nov 5

The editing process is something all new authors should clearly grasp. It is a multi-layered approach and, to be honest, I don’t know how some authors can do it on their own or even by using someone other than a skilled, professional editor. What has become apparent to me is how valuable and important it is to have a top-notch editor before you publish. To me, they are worth their weight in gold.

As I understand it, there are three main stages of editing that should occur after you have self-edited your WIP to the best of your ability (this means rewriting enough drafts—including changes and updates gleaned from your trusted beta readers—until you feel it is finally ready for the next stage). I have just recently gone through this with my own editor for my new book entitled Five Little Monkeys and continue to find each level of the editing process to be hugely valuable.

For those of you interested in what each stage entails, here is a brief breakdown of how my editor and I do it:

Stage One: Developmental and Line Edit

Perhaps the most difficult one for the author as it feels like your newborn baby is being examined by a doctor and you are told about all the defects you hadn’t anticipated or even noticed. It’s a lot of stuff you perhaps don’t want to hear but it is important to deal with it if you have any chance at getting better as a writer.

A good editor will not worry about your feelings; they will be picky as hell and an author seeking to improve his or her craft has to take it in stride and react accordingly. For me, while this is often a sucker punch to the ego and the toughest stage of the entire process, it is the most important stage.

With my editor, we tackle both developmental and line edits at the beginning of the process. A developmental and Line Edit will deal with many overall issues with the manuscript. Developmental will be about content - is your story strong and is content necessary? A line edit is basically a line-by-line analysis of the manuscript. Usually, a combination of some of the following will inevitably pop up:

• Narration and POV issues

• Characters and characterization

• Suggestions to enhance sections or entire manuscript (Line Edit)

• Plot point issues

• Timeline inconsistencies

• Spelling inconsistencies

• Character inconsistencies

• Geographical inconsistencies

• American/British spelling issues

• Plausibility issues

• Structure issues

Stage Two: Copy Edit

The next stage is a copyedit and it deals primarily with grammar and language. Edits will include:

• Punctuation adjustments and corrections

• Rectify typos/missing words/extra words

• Close word or action echoes within the scene

• Checking consistency of tense throughout

• Recommendations about flow and things like “Showing, not telling,’ are often highlighted at this point

• Highlight close word or action echoes within the scene

• Repetition issues throughout the manuscript

The second stage will also comment on your most recent (post-stage one) edits and additions to ensure targets have been met and additional inconsistencies are flagged.

Stage Three: Proofreading

Basically, this is the time when the editor will examine your final edits and look for any corrections to be made in any of these recent changes. This is the last stage before being it is ready for all the other fun stuff that follows such as beginning in earnest the querying process; cover design; blurb and synopsis development; marketing goals; and the various other stages of the publishing process.

In the end, the editing process is a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, it makes me painfully aware of how blind I am to my own inadequacies and mistakes. It can be disheartening to realize how my carefully scrutinized manuscript is actually riddled with errors. On the other hand, nothing teaches me to be a better writer than the notes and explanations made in the comment section of my novel-to-be by a quality editor. In the end, while perhaps not perfect, after the finals stage I feel confident that my WIP is ready for the wild, untamed, and unforgiving world of the general viewing audience.

Hopefully, this blog was helpful (and doesn’t require too many edits!).


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