Depending on your book’s stage of completion and genre, it will need one of several types of editing–and in most cases, works of fiction and creative nonfiction will need all of them at some point.
You often hear “copyediting” equated with “proofreading,” but they’re two very different processes. A copyeditor goes over your manuscript line by line, inspecting the language for errors of grammar and punctuation, smoothing out the syntax, and ensuring stylistic consistency. Do you use semicolons correctly? Are your sentences muddled by misplaced modifiers? Do you always represent numerals, spell idiosyncratic words, and italicize projected dialogue uniformly? These are the kinds of problems copyeditors will watch for, often creating a personalized style sheet for your work so that, should you run into questions during a revision, you’ll know what to do.
A substantive edit can range from a fairly light line edit (focusing on the language of the manuscript) to a heavy craft-focused edit. In most cases, in addition to providing a copyedit, your editor will go over your manuscript with a magnifying glass, flagging problem areas in the prose and providing a detailed critique of your work with both small- and large-scale suggestions for improvement. This process can include fact-checking any information your manuscript presents and its potential anachronisms, cleaning up the language (pointing out awkward constructions, imprecise word choices, accidental repetition, overuse of passive voice, confusing pronouns, clichéd or clumsy imagery or metaphor, flaccid prose, etc.), identifying craft problems (of plot, theme, character, point of view, voice, tone, pacing, etc.) and proposing solutions.
This level of editing occurs at the final stage of publishing or self-publishing. A proofreader goes over the final copy of your manuscript right before it goes to print, making sure no typographical errors were overlooked by the previous editor or have been introduced in a revision.
In most cases, you’ll want your manuscript to undergo a heavy substantive edit first. Your editor will dramatically improve the quality of your manuscript on the levels of both language and craft, and implementing his or her suggestions will give you the opportunity to see your book in a new light and improve your own skills. After your revision, your editor may recommend another substantive edit, or you may just need a light copyedit to catch any new problems. And you always, always need to invest in a proofread before publishing, no matter how many times you’ve gone over your manuscript. Editing takes time and a little investment, but it is the single most important step in the process of taking your manuscript from a scribbled draft to a polished, professional-quality book.
Interested in learning about how BookFuel can help you edit your next book? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out!