Editing your own manuscript is bewildering enough, but then if you want to have your manuscript professionally edited the choices are sometimes confusing and overwhelming – not to mention expensive. It might be that you’re trying to polish a manuscript to nab an agent, or to prepare it for self-publishing. Either way when you’re the one calling the shots, how do you know what type of edit your manuscript needs?
I think there is a common misconception amongst aspiring authors that you’re going to give your manuscript to an editor and it’s going to come back to you as an unrecognisable book. I know I thought that before I had anything edited. Actually what an editor does is to point out where you need further development or need to change something.
I recently had an almost mini structural edit done on one of my WIPs. Having not had one done before, I didn’t know what to expect. What I ended up with was almost a critique of the novel, it addressed things like development of the characters, identifying weaknesses in the plot, and story-lines that would benefit from being introduced earlier or later in the novel. It was a WIP that I felt something was missing from, and just having a better understanding of what an editor identified to be wrong with the book was really helpful, as now I can go back and re-edit and create a stronger book.
In the past, I’ve previously relied on test readers to help with that stage of things. I’ve always thought this works really well, especially if you give it to a number of readers and collate what they have to say. You do have to pick your test readers carefully, and you have to trust that they know what they’re talking about!
The next edit down from a structural edit, is a line edit. With a line edit, the editor combs the manuscript line by line, and you’ll find notes in the margins next to sentences which need further work. For example, would that character be thinking that, or you’ve already said that on page X. At this point little plot inconsistencies are identified, changes of character names or physical descriptions etc.
After a line edit comes the copy edit, and that focuses on your grammar and typos. A stage invaluable to anyone who is contemplating self-publishing. Then, just when you thought you were finished, you can add to the stage a proofread. These are checks for final small mistakes that might still be lurking.
When you look at the different edits available and how much they cost, you could potentially be spending hundreds, if not thousands on your book. The problem is, if you are unrepresented then the decision comes down to you as to which one (of any of these) you get done. I have to admit, that I rely on my gut feeling. I knew with the latest WIP something wasn’t right, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Yet, with one of my novels I was fairly confident in the plots and continuity and I only had a copy edit before self-publishing.
Have you used a freelance editor/editing company? How did you decide what type of edit to go for?