The Editing Process

So you're interested in having your story edited but a little uncertain what such an experience might entail? Read on!


The Beginning

Let's say you're not sure what kind of editing your manuscript needs and you send a request for a free evaluation.

When I read the sample, I'll be able to recommend what type of editing your project needs. When you're ready to go ahead with an editing service, the first step will be to read and sign the "Freelance Editorial Agreement" contract [Sample]. It covers your rights as a Client and my rights as an Editor, as well as outlining the terms of services and payment schedule.

Once the contract is signed, you can send me your manuscript and I will send my first invoice for the non-refundable deposit (usually 50% of the total). Please note: If you decide to cancel the project before its completion, the deposit acts as a cancellation fee.

If desired, a live chat can also be scheduled whether you have questions, concerns, or would simply like to make sure I'm not some insidious monster who eats stories for breakfast. Depending on where you are, this could be a phone call, Skype chat, or text chat on Slack (I'll do my best to accommodate whatever chat method you prefer). Please note: Beyond this introductory live chat, the first 1-hour live chat is free with a content or copy edit only, otherwise (and afterwards), the price is $20 per hour of live chat.

I do most of my editing, when feasible, through Microsoft Word using the Track Changes and Comments functions. It's very handy, especially for any kind of back-and-forth communication (you can see all the changes I'm proposing easily, as well as add your own replies to my comments or to point out areas of concern). For some types of editing, I can also work with PDFs or InDesign files.

The Content Edit

Sometimes called "development," "structural," or "substantive" editing, if your project needs a content edit, it needs help with big picture issues: plot structure, pacing, and thematic elements.

This type of editing has to be done through Microsoft Word or some other text-based program because it can involve major changes. We may revise, reorder, cut, or expand material to improve those big picture issues, but I'll also change or make suggestions on dialogue, characterizations, and paragraph/sentence structure.

Usually, a manuscript that needs a content edit could have any of the following problems:

  • Missing scenes, conflicts, or even the whole climax

  • A character that changes appearance frequently (or dies and comes back with no explanation)

  • Massive paragraphs

  • Missing or no chapters

  • Weak beginning, ending/denouement, or weak/missing conflicts

  • Chronology issues (For example, I write scenes out of order, so it's important that my editor watches for anachronisms.)

  • Stream-of-consciousness writing/loss of plot focus

  • Marketing or readability issues for the target audience

And that's just to name a few. If you've never had anyone read your work (or only family/friends), it's probably a good idea to consider a content edit (or manuscript assessment at the very least).

After my first edit, I'll send you another invoice for 25% of the remaining payment (saving the last 25% for after the Clean-Up Stage). Once payment is cleared, I'll send the manuscript back to you for revision and, when you're ready, you'll return it to me with your notes. Another live chat will be scheduled and then the clean-up will begin.

For those of you who have never worked with an editor before, we do not write your book for you so expect to be involved. I do not move ahead with major changes—for example moving chapters or removing large sections of text—without first consulting with you. If the entire middle portion of your manuscript needs work or a character comes across as bland, it will be returned to you with the appropriate comments and potential solutions, but those changes are for the author to make. This is for the sake of indemnity, confidentiality, and, most obviously, intellectual property rights. 

Feedback and communication are key!

For example, if I return your manuscript and I've found that the main conflict is on the weaker side, I'll make comments in your document with suggestions on how to improve the conflict. Then, once we have our live chat, we can brainstorm more ideas until we land on one you like. We'll do this for each and every major issue that was found in the content edit before moving on!

Manuscript Assessment

**For a detailed explanation, see Scribe Cat's blog, "What's a Manuscript Assessment?"

This looks at everything that a content edit looks at—all those big picture issues—as well as some of the technical details of a copy edit. 

So why's it cheaper?

I don't do any actual editing to your manuscript. I offer a comprehensive report and comment on where I think your project needs some work and things to look out for. For $20 per hour, we can add a live chat (though I'm happy to go back and forth via email at no additional cost).

I highly recommend a copy edit for any project, even if you forego the content edit or manuscript assessment (but you can get discounted copy editing if you choose to add onto a content edit or manuscript assessment).

The Copy Edit

Once we've cleaned up all the major issues and settled on a final draft, we'll move into the copy edit phase.
For those of you in the know, you may notice that I don't offer a "line" edit (sometimes called "stylistic" editing). That's because the issues a line edit looks at, I look for in a copy edit. A copy edit includes a look at technical details and the minutiae of a project:
  • Editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage
  • Checking for consistency and continuity of mechanics and facts (this can include anachronisms, character names, etc.)
  • Editing chapter heads, figure captions, and tables for design consistency
  • Querying any information that should be checked for accuracy 
On top of that, I look at line/stylistic issues:
  • Eliminating jargon, clichés, euphemisms, or inappropriate slang
  • Establishing or maintaining the language level appropriate for the intended audience, medium, and purpose
  • Adjusting the length and structure of sentences and paragraphs
  • Establishing or maintaining tone, mood, style, and authorial voice/level of formality
This is where things get a bit boring for some people: I make you choose a dictionary and style guide. The style guide is usually pretty straightforward depending on your project (Chicago Style for most novels; AMA for medical texts; AP/CP for American/Canadian Press, and so on). Dictionaries can get tricky because English spelling has quite a bit of variety (when to hyphenate, when to use -our/-or, as just a couple of examples). Americans, we'll default to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary; British, we'll default to the Oxford English dictionary; Canadians, it'll depend whether you want to side with American English or British/International English; Australians and other International English speakers, we'll talk (you have so many choices!).
And then there are the exceptions to those guides: the style sheet. If you haven't provided a style sheet, this is the editing stage where I will make one for you. These are super handy not just for spelling and punctuation rules that deviate from standard style guides/dictionaries, but to record how you want a character's name to be spelled out so I, and any other editors who come after me, won't make the Tolkien error (that is, correcting the word "orc" as "ore" because "orc" wasn't a thing then...and some autocorrect functions will still label "orc" as incorrect).
It may seem trivial, but this step is vital to ensure consistency in your project (and future projects). That consistency adds credibility to your work (and, by extension, you) and is something editors strive to maintain in everything we work on.
The final stage! Once you've set up your project for print, it's important to have someone take a final look. Not just to catch any typos that may have lingered but to ensure the design elements and the text itself looks good.
What does this mean?
  • Correcting any widows, orphans, or rivers that may have cropped up in setting the text to print or eBook format
  • Ensuring all headers, captions, and other elements are consistent throughout
  • Making sure the design elements are adhered throughout
  • Correcting mechanical errors (spelling mistakes and deviations from the style sheet)
The Clean-Up/Second-Pass Edit
In between every editing stage, there's what I call the "clean-up" stage. 
So how does this editing stage work?
Let's say I've completed a copy edit for you, I'll send you the manuscript with all the tracked changes/comments. I don't expect you to go through and "accept" every change but mark <stet> or comment on any changes you want to reject. This let's you go over all the changes but also gives me a fast track on what is and isn't acceptable when I do my second copy edit pass (or second content edit or proofread). I like to do two passes as it ensures there's no miscommunication on how you'd like a word spelled throughout your project and I can double check any faults Track Changes may introduce.
After the clean-up stage is complete and I'm ready to return a final document with no tracked changes or comments. I will send a third invoice for the final 25% of the quoted price.

If you're starting from the top, editing can be a laborious project which is why I never recommend any author take this on alone. You put in a lot of hard work writing and researching your project, giving yourself a break and letting someone else go over your work ensures that nothing is missed, whether that be a plot hole or a typo.

The end goal in every step of editing is to create a clear, concise, and credible manuscript to convey the very best of your story to your audience.

Whether you need the full set of editing services or just a copy edit, head over to the Services page to get started!

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