I thought this would be a one-time post about editors, but it seems like the subject is really too big for its britches. That means there will be more. Aren’t you excited?
Editors get a bad rap.
Oh, it’s okay. We’re used to it. We’re the dentists of the writing world. We do what’s necessary, we do what’s requested, but it can be painful and no one likes pain. (Well, except for the freaky people, but we’re not talking about them right now. Heh.) We drill, we fill, we yank and we dig. And then, we make you pay for it.
It’s a necessary evil. You can function without an editor (or a dentist) and you can put off using their services, but eventually that rotten tooth is going to start throbbing and causing problems, and so is your story or novel.
Sometimes, all you need is a good cleaning to stave off any big problems, and sometimes you need a thorough root canal. Sometimes, you have to pull everything out and just start from scratch, with a brand-new set of choppers. There could be blood.
It’s a lot more difficult for the self-publisher, because writers who go through the “traditional” publisher (I don’t like that term, but it’s the only one I have) will see their work evaluated by an editor as part of the package deal. The book will be seen (hopefully) by a competent proof reader, copy editor and a developmental editor. The goal is to come out the other side with clean copy that is factually consistent and worthy of publication. Does traditional publishing miss the mark? Sure. Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes the work is pushed through so fast there are glaring errors — we’ve all seen them.
From what I’ve seen of self-publishers, few have had the self-discipline or the funds to polish their work to the best it can be, and the result is a flood of garbage, if I’m to be blunt.
What to do, what to do? As a self-publisher, you don’t have access to or can’t afford the same kind of services offered by the Big Houses, and yet, you really need them. I mean, you really, really do. And I’ll get to the reasons for that in my next post.
But first, you have to understand the different levels of edits and exactly what you’re getting for your investment. Keep in mind every editor is not the same as another — some will offer all these services, some will offer one, some will offer a combination. We’ll get to that.
1. Developmental editor. The developmental editor is the one that will take an overall view of your work and evaluate it for several different points. Namely, story arc, story flow, characterization, plot, transitions and logic. This is the first, and probably the biggest, step in the editing process. The developmental editor (also known as a “story doctor” or could even evolve into a ghostwriter) may suggest major changes in plot lines or chapter placement. However, all decisions are strictly up to the writer to make. Developmental editors typically do not do a copy editor’s job (but some do), although they may make suggestions of that nature. After the developmental editor, the copy editor comes next.
No. We’re not done yet. Stop whining.
2. Copy editor. A copy editor works according to the “five c’s”…Clear, Concise, Correct, Complete and Consistent. At this level, a copy editor is checking for errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and terminology. Additionally, a copy editor also checks for errors in facts, and evaluates flow without changing the meaning of the text. A good copy editor will make your words say what you mean, and mean what you say.
No, we’re not done now, either. I said stop your whining.
3. Proofreader. This type of edit is generally for punctuation, spelling, grammar and typos. Some proofreaders will work against a copy, and some will do it “blind”. (Not actually blind. They just don’t check things against a copy.) This is actually the last stage of the editing process.
By this point, your story or novel should be shining like a new penny, if you’ve done the work. The editors are not there to do your work for you. It’s in your best interest to submit to the editor(s) your best material. Yes, you’re paying them for their expertise, but if you aren’t submitting the best you can do, you’re just making it more difficult on yourself. You’re going to have to correct those mistakes anyway, why pile more torture and re-work on yourself?
But, Netta, you say. I’m an indie. I can’t afford this. Or, you say, But, Netta, I know I’m good. As a matter of fact, I’m GREAT. My mother/sister/best friend/writer’s group/receptionist at the dentist’s office TOLD me I’m great! Editor? I don’t need no steeenkin’ editor!
Well, now that you know what levels of editing there are and what different editors do, tune in for the next post where I’ll tell you why you need an editor and maybe help you find some alternatives that won’t drain the bank account.
In the meantime, stock up on the novacaine.
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