Tim Lewis: Well, I’m not sure this really needs too much introduction. I’ve actually recently done a show for the Alliance of Independent Authors where I talk about editing, and there will be a little bit of overlap with that in this chapter.
What is Editing?
Tim Lewis: Editing is the process of improving your manuscript to make it better after the original first draught. Now, this is not just a case of improving in the way of making sure there were no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. The process of editing is a much wider process, and depends very much what kind of book you’re writing.
Tim Lewis: So, for example, if you’re talking about more the content and developmental side of editing, then that will deal much more with the story elements and how your book is actually structured, as opposed to the spelling mistakes. You can create the best book grammatically and with no spelling mistakes, and it can still be terrible. For example, if you write a fiction book, and you kill off a character in your first chapter, and then he suddenly reappears later on, and that’s not because of any story element, just because you got confused in the way that you wrote the book, then that is an error within your book which you’ve not picked up. Nothing to do with grammar, but it’s something that a good editor would pick up and tell you about.
Tim Lewis: So there are those kind of continuity issues, but there are also usages of words which don’t really fit. If characters have particular traits, and then they suddenly stop doing them later on, then that’s an issue. Or if, with the case of a very good editor who’s specialised in a particular genre of books, they will know the kind of thing that will work and what won’t work for a particular book. Now, you obviously don’t want to be in the position where the editor is telling you too much what to write, because then you’re almost slipping into the world of ghostwriting. But a very good editor can help make your book a much better thing than it was in the first draught.
Editing vs Proofreading
Tim Lewis: Now, traditionally, people get confused between editing and proofreading, and proofreaders are editors of a form, but traditionally, what a proofreader does is they look out for spelling mistakes and issues to do with the very micro level, and also to do with how the proof is written. So, the proof is the thing that goes to the printers, so they will see how the book is laid out, and a lot of what a proofreader does is very similar to what we call formatting in the self-publishing world, so how you get your manuscript formatted into either an ebook or a paperback book or an audiobook.
Where to find an editor
Tim Lewis: Now, in terms of where to find editors, you’ve got a range of choices. If you can afford it, by far the best place is to go to a certified body such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the UK, and find a qualified editor or set of editors who are up to the level of standard you’re looking for. Now, for some people on lower budgets, this may not be applicable, but I think that editing is not something that you should be skimping on, especially if you’re a new writer.
Tim Lewis: If you can afford a good editor such as somebody from one of these professional bodies, then go down that route, because there’s a world of difference between somebody who’s trained in editing and somebody who just happens to be an English major. Somebody who’s done an English degree is not necessarily going to know anything about proofreading or editing a particular genre. You may get lucky if you go for somebody on a site like Upwork who does editing and proofreading, and find somebody who is a lot cheaper and has the ability to make your book better, but your first stop should be one of the professional editing bodies, if possible.
Tim Lewis: When you do find a selection of potential editors for your book, you want to be sending off a few chapters, or maybe a chapter, depending on how long your chapters are, and get them to do a sample edit on it. This will give you some idea of the corrections they’ll make, both in terms of how good they are and how you’re going to get on with them, because this is somebody you’re going to have to form a relationship with, and attempt to push yourselves forward to make the book as good as possible. So, when you get your corrections back, you don’t really want somebody who makes no corrections at all, because that’s suggesting that you’re perfect, and you know you’re not perfect. On the other hand, if somebody makes loads of tiny, nitpicking changes that make no sense to you, then maybe they’re not the right editor for you, and vice versa. So that’s the world of editing. We’ll deal with formatting in the next chapter.
If you liked this post then you will find the following shows interesting : Fiction Editing with Louise Harnby, Non-Fiction Editing with Denise Cowle and Behind the Scenes of the Begin Self-Publishing Podcast