I asked and you answered.
The overwhelming majority wanted to know about editing.
So, let’s get into this subject.
Once you have written a book, regardless of genre, if it’s fiction or nonfiction, you have to edit it.
What is editing?
It’s a revision of the work you have completed. Some tortured souls, such as myself, edit as they write. That is to say, I write a chapter, then I edit it, go on and I write the next one, and I repeat until I type “The End”. Not content with inflicting that kind of punishment on myself, the next day I read what I wrote the day before and tweak it a little more, first because I see things I didn’t on the first pass, and second because I get to be a lot more coherent in continuing the story (for instance, if I was editing this paragraph, I would remove more than half the “I” in it, by rephrasing.)
If you are a plotter, then you don’t quite have the same situation, you know where your story is going and how it’s going to get there, so you refer to the outline rather than worry about what you wrote the day before, or whenever you stopped last time.
All the same, once you are done, the book is completed, you have to go back over it. You have to read it again in its entirety. To correct any mistakes or to adjust it so that it is the best possible product, because a book is, after all, a product.
In the area of fiction writing, there are some things you have to look for when editing.
You have to make sure you are consistent. You characters have the same physical characteristics throughout the story or there is a reason for the change (example, the character starts blond, but midway through the story, you refer to their “raven black hair” with no hair color change in between), names and places are called the same throughout, are capitalized the same, etc. These are simple and basic, but also easy to miss. Let’s say you decided after you were halfway through you don’t want Mike to have that name because is to close to Pike, another character. So you have to make sure you change all the instances Mike appears in the manuscript. Consistency is important also in the tenses you use in your book. If your story is in the past tense, the character may have a dialogue in the present tense and you may, inadvertently, continue that paragraph in the present tense, which would be inconsistent with the rest of the story (it happens, it’s easier than you think.)
You have to make sure things make sense. The change in the characters from the beginning of the book to the end must be a consequence of the story. Whether what happens to the characters is good or bad, it’s the chronicle of how they experience their journey. So, it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They may not be in that order (*cough*, Star Wars trilogies, *cough*), but it is what is expected.
There are many such considerations.
Now. There is a piece of common advice: take some time after you finish your book before you attempt to edit. The idea is that the elapsed time will give you perspective, you will have achieved some distance from the story, and will be able to look at the book a little more objectively.
Well, it is true. You do gain perspective, but you are also intimately familiar with the story. There is a whole bunch of backstory that never made it on the page, there’s a ton of worldbuilding that you did not describe or reference, but you know all about it. So, no matter how much distance you achieve, there is nothing like a new person that has no idea of what is written there to take a look.
This team that’ll look at your work will do so in different ways, usually the ideal order is as follows:
A developmental editor: After a few drafts, you feel the book is done. Ready to see the light of day. Ready to walk on its own. Ready for the deep end of the pool. You know what I mean. So, you have a person read it. They will pay attention to continuity, consistency. Are there some arcane, obscure references that need more clarity? A character knows another character’s name and at no point were they introduced, so how did the character come to know it? People need a lot of training to go to space, but you have your characters jump on a ship and rocket off to another planet with no training. How can they do this? Also, they do not suffer from a lack of gravity, but there are no explanations for any of these events. Your dragon has udders and dragon milk is very well received and even valuable for the human population of your world, but the dragon is oviparous and reptilian, so, why does it need milk? You get the idea. That’s what developmental editing does for you, and not every book needs this (most do, actually, but some authors don’t think so).
Once you receive the developmental editing comments, the next step is to apply the ones you feel are relevant to your book. There are some comments you will disagree with and, being the author, choosing to make a change or not is exactly your job and your prerogative. Then comes the next step.
Copyediting and line editing: You are now satisfied with the story, whether you simply tweaked your original work a little or if it took several extensive rewrites. Copyediting goes into the details of the language on a sentence-by-sentence basis. Here there is a check for accuracy, consistency, and errors in grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. They also check that the lexicon used, the subject-specific terminology, and conventions are used and followed. If there is real-world information contained within the manuscript, like names of equipment, and institutions, dates of events, and other factual data, this editing is the one that checks for accuracy. In other words, if you are talking Earth-normal, gravity acceleration is 9.81 m/S2. If you reference Earth-normal gravity acceleration in your work, the copyeditor will make sure your figure is exactly correct, or you have a reasonable explanation for the variation.
Once you are through here, you have a finished product. Huzza!
But wait… are you sure all spelling errors have been dealt with? Are you sure all the commas are where they are supposed to be? Are there any grammatical errors that made it through? That’s the final step.
Proofreading: Once you are sure there are no more changes to be made, this step is necessary for the final, formatted book (check my comments on book formats in another one of my blogs), right before publication. Every book needs proofreading. At this stage, hopefully, you will not find a single mistake. My personal experience is that life loves to laugh at you when you are not looking. I’ve read traditionally published books that have mistakes. From misnumbered chapters to simple grammatical errors, it happens, and a proofread is never one step too far.
The formatted manuscript that comes out of these processes is what then gets one or more ISBNs (one for each version of the book: ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook) and is almost the final product.
“Almost”?, What do you mean “almost”? Well, you need the cover, which we have discussed in other blogs and you need a title page, a copyright page, a dedication page, a backlog page, and a table of contents page. Some of these are necessary, some are not, but we will look into these at a later date.
I do hope you enjoyed this little look at editing and, please, let me know what you think.
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