I’ll admit it. I used to imagine writing and editing as two separate endeavors. A writer holes up in a room somewhere, toils away at a draft, and submits it to a publishing house when it’s done. Then, an entirely different type of professional called an editor reviews the draft, makes a few changes, and sends it off to print.
I believed the writer-editor dynamic was symbiotic but didn’t understand to exactly what extent. The truth is that editing is as (and possibly more) important to the writing process as anything else. Editing is writing.
Even apart from the obvious impact of improving a draft, editing someone else’s work challenges you to become a better writer. That make’s editing an essential practice for all writers. And improving your editing abilities goes hand-in-hand with improving your overall craft.
Let’s discuss the three types of editing and how you can use them to improve your own work and the work of others.
Substantive editing is the first stage of any editing process. It involves examining macro elements of a text including structure, characters, tone, pacing, and voice. The goal is to determine whether or not each element is supporting the author’s intent.
In this phase of the editing process, editors communicate with authors to facilitate discussions and make suggestions on how to improve the overall text. It does not bother with line edits, grammar, or formatting. This will all be dealt with in the next phases. Comprehensive rewrites, additions, or structural changes take place here, making it the most time-consuming and transformative of the editing stages. Copyediting, at this stage, would be a waste of time, since many passages are likely to be rewritten entirely.
This stage can also be called developmental editing if the editor is working with the writer to establish these choices as they are creating the draft.
Just starting out with your first found of edits? Here are some tips to help you do your best work.
Once the macro elements have been addressed, editors begin assessing the text on a paragraph and sentence level. This stage is also called line editing and it focuses on micro elements of a work such as repetition, cliches, clarity, and word choice.
Again, understanding the author’s intention is critical to getting this phase right. This is because the slightest alteration of connotation, metaphor, tone, or opening sentence can change the entire atmosphere of a chapter or paragraph.
Here are some tips for flawless line edits.
My professor once told me that a good copyeditor or proofreader is worth their weight in gold. This is because these professionals must possess flawless attention to detail as their work can make or break a reader’s first impression of a piece.
Copyeditors and proofreaders are responsible for ensuring that a text is flawless. They correct grammar and spelling, fact-check, flag legal concerns, and sometimes even format the manuscript for print.
Depending on what you are copyediting, there may be any number of standards a copywriter is required to follow including style guides and formatting restrictions. Ultimately, copywriters are necessary for ensuring that the author’s work is communicated as correctly and clearly as possible and that the text respects the publisher's house style without compromising the authorial voice.
Here are some strategies for success.
In order to effectively edit a piece of text, you need to understand the author’s intent and the effectiveness of different literary techniques to accomplish that intent. Practicing that sort of analysis with the work of others goes a long way to making critical, objective choices about your own writing.
Bottom line: improve your editing skills and your writing skills will follow.
Hiring a writer? It's vital they're a good fit for your business. Here's how you can tell.