In honor of March being National Novel Editing Month, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned about editing. Editing is hard! But it can also be fun – seeing your novel turn into a polished manuscript that’s ready to be published.
When I first started editing, I didn’t know what I was doing, and that made it difficult for me. Rather than just jumping into the editing process, you need to have a plan. And to make a good plan, you need to understand the different kinds of editing.
There are four basic types of editing. (Sometimes people lump the first two together, going with three types, but I find it easier to work with four.)
1. Developmental Editing – This editing looks at your novel as a whole. Does everything make sense? Have you shared all the information the readers needs? Have you shared unnecessary things? Are things happening in the right order? Are there any plot holes? At this stage you’re not worrying about spelling and grammar – you’re just trying to be sure your story makes sense.
2. Content Editing – This is a more in depth version of the developmental edit. You’re looking at overall style and pacing, checking to be sure that you’ve sufficiently corrected any plot holes or any other content issues. Are you using the same tense throughout? Does the point of view stay the same, or only change when you intend it to? Is the story a cohesive manuscript?
3. Copy Editing – This stage of editing is when you start looking at grammar and spelling errors. Are there any awkward sentences that need to fixed? Is everything spelled correctly? Are you using the right words for what you want to say? Have you left out any words? Have you used a certain word too many times? Have you used too many adverbs? Have you used the passive voice too often?
4. Proofreading – In theory, this is the final edit – checking line by line to be sure there are no more errors. Sometimes this needs to be done a few times by a few different eyes.
Once you understand the types of edits, you can make your plan. Depending of whether you intend to self-publish, or publish through a traditional publishing house, your plan may vary slightly. Also, you have to understand how you work so you can determine how many rounds of edits you might need.
Stephen King suggests going through three rounds of edits before you ever show your manuscript to anyone, and I agree with him. You certainly want to do a developmental and a content edit before anyone looks at your manuscript, so you can be sure your novel is conveying what you want it to convey.
My editing plan goes as follows (I am still in the middle of this process, and am planning to self-publish my novels):
I typically do three or four rounds of development/content edits (usually two on the computer and two on paper), then send my manuscript to my beta readers. After they have finished with it, I take in all their notes, go through a final content round and a round or two of copy edits, and send it off to my editor.
After my editor has finished, I take in her notes and do two rounds of copy edits. Then I give the manuscript to some friends and family (who have an extensive knowledge of grammar/spelling rules ect.) for a proof. I take in their notes and make corrections, and then do another final proof on paper. So before my manuscript is finished, it typically goes through 10-15 edits, and sometimes more.
What about you? Do you have an editing plan you always follow? What’s your favorite part of the editing process? Let me know in the comments!
This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.