INFORMATION FOR SELF-PUBLISHING AUTHORS
I’ve worked with several independent and self-publishing authors planning to release their work for Kindle, and I find engagement with both literary and commercial fiction, and the people who produce it, an absolute joy. Working with words, and making words work for other people is what gets me out of bed in the morning! My aim is always to eliminate the errors and inconsistencies that will distract your readers, without compromising the narrative voice you’ve worked so hard to bring to life.
Authors have approached me at various stages of their writing journeys, but I normally recommend that a manuscript goes through both developmental editing and copy-editing before it is sent to me for proofreading. If it’s your first novel and you’re unsure about which stage of the editorial process it’s at, the following information might be helpful.
Here’s what usually happens at each editorial stage:
Developmental / structural / substantive editing
A developmental editor is looking at your manuscript at story level and is concerned with the ways in which chapters and scenes hang together. Are they structured in a way that helps the reader navigate the story, or will they lose their way? Are key questions left unanswered or are there plot threads which remain loose ends? Does the pacing lack momentum? A developmental or structural editor will ensure that your plot is logical and its flow is coherent, your characters are well developed and three-dimensional, and the narrative point of view is consistent and unambiguous.
Line editing / stylistic editing
Line editing is concerned with improving the prose at sentence level, examining it line by line to ensure that the language is creatively engaging, clear and concise. It focuses mainly on the style of your writing rather than the story itself, helping you to avoid cliches and imprecision, and improving unwieldy sentence structures. A line editor might suggest cuts of redundant wording or even whole passages if ideas are repetitive or unconvincing, or if exposition is clunky or unnecessary. He or she will advise you if your word choices strike an incongruous tone, if an expression is anachronistic, or if dialogue sounds inauthentic. In short, a line editor’s job is to help you craft your story with elegance and finesse.
Copy-editing can encompass many of the stylistic aspects mentioned above, but it also focuses on the mechanics of your writing at sentence and word level; clarity and correctness are of prime concern. With fiction, particular attention is given to consistency of character names and attributes, authenticity of word choice in relation to character voice, and aspects such as dialogue tagging. A copy-editor will pick up on any erroneous shifts in tense or inadvertent repetition and will highlight any contradictions or factual inaccuracies. The technical aspects of design also come into play at this stage in the editorial process: a copy-editor will check indentation, chapter sequencing, pagination, spacing and running heads, and will advise on paragraph structure and section breaks. He or she will also ensure consistent and standard hyphenation and capitalisation, and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, but if time and budget are limited they may only be able to pick up the most significant instances. This is where the proofreader comes in...
This takes place after the manuscript has been professionally copy-edited: the proofreader’s role is to pick up on anything and everything missed at that stage. He or she will read word by word, letter by letter, checking everything down to the final full stop in order to ensure the correctness of your grammar, and the consistency of spelling, capitalisation, hyphenation and punctuation (particularly of dialogue). The text is in its final format (or very close to it), so this is the last chance to catch any problems with the layout and design, including pagination, running heads, spacing, widows/orphans, bad word breaks, stacking of hyphens, paragraphing and indentation, and font styles and sizes. It’s very difficult for a proofreader to work at this level of detail if there are still structural or stylistic problems with the text. A good proofreader will always point out contradictions, inaccuracies and repetition where they find them, but all of this takes time. Not every writer has the budget to go for four editorial passes, but it’s worth being aware that if you skip the earlier stages of revision, your proofreading will probably take longer and cost you more.
I’m ready for proofreading – what now?
In order for you to decide whether I’d be a good fit for your project, I’m more than happy to provide a free sample edit along with my quotation. Simply email me a section of around 2,000 words in MS Word format and I’ll send you back a fully annotated version, with no obligation on your part.