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Book Editing Basics

Part 1 of 4

Today, we provide a brief guide on the different types of editing. This post aims to aid you in finding techniques and tools that will allow you to engage with not only your writing but the ideas you wish it to present to your audience. At the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of the types of editing techniques and tools available to you, as well as how and when to use them.

You will find throughout this article, that the editing techniques listed can be done both by you and a professional. You may be asking: why do this when an editor can? Well, there are many reasons, but I find two reasons to be the most pressing. The first is cost. You will have to pay for each of these niche services. And while there are freelance editors that have experience in editing techniques, it will still cost as they are providing an extensive service. This can become an issue especially for those who wish to self-publish.

Secondly, while an editor’s skills are surely valuable, and they are trained to pick apart writing in specific ways to bring into existence the most optimal piece, they are not the writer, you are, and you know best what you want from your writing and can find it. At the end of the day, the one takeaway you need to know and live by as a writer is that both are needed!

Without further adieu, let’s dig in!

We have divided this brief guide into sections for optimal navigation and comprehension, beginning with editing techniques, divided by narrative and style edits, and then leading into tools that can optimize putting those techniques into practice. In editing, a good rule of thumb is to start with larger, more “destructive,” editing, and then moving into editing that gets to the nitty-gritty of the work. After all, you wouldn’t want to edit grammar and punctuation, only to restructure the piece, because you would have to do this step.

Narrative Editing

Manuscript evaluation: What are your concerns for your writing? While an editor is the one who usually provides a manuscript evaluation after reviewing your first submitted draft, this is a technique that can be incorporated into your editing process. It is a useful way to honestly gauge what process of editing you are in and what next steps need to be taken. I would advise taking some time away from the work before rereading and doing the evaluation, as this will change your perspective on many things about your work.

Developmental/Substantive editing: Developmental and substantive editing often go hand in hand, and you may find yourself doing a bit of substantive editing as you do developmental edits. However, there are key differences between the two. Substantive editing refers to “substantive,” or rather, substantial edits in a work. In this stage of editing, you may find yourself completely changing the structure of the work and possibly the plot itself! Developmental editing can be seen as the blueprint to get this done, and so often incorporates elements of substantive editing, as it involves the writer developing the narrative, and takes into account other things like character development and voice. Substantive editing is necessarily needed to fulfill this.

Structural editing: I like to think of structural editing as a part of substantive editing as it often gets done in the process of doing substantive editing. However, if you like to separate your editing steps, it may be useful to be mindful of it as a specific step to take. If substantive editing is an “overhaul” of the work in terms of narrative, structural editing is an overhaul in terms of how that narrative is communicated on a more technical level. This may look like restructuring your work, deleting sections, and adding others.

Style Editing

Line/ Copy editing: Copy editing is also known as line editing in certain publishing circles. There is the smallest difference between them, however, that can be helpful to know. For example, inline editing, you would be more attentive to style, such as prose and syntax. On the other hand, copy editing, while still at the sentence level, is attuned to even more minute details. For example, in copyediting, you may join sentences together or break them apart, and change a clause to be at the end of the sentence, versus the beginning. Of course, you can see how both of these influence each other. Rearranging clauses may change your syntax or style, and to change syntax and style you may have to rearrange your clauses. Get the drift?

Proofreading: proofreading is the very last step. Like copy and line editing, it focuses on the minute details that make or break a piece. Unlike copy and line editing, however, it is not attentive to style and no “suggestions” are needed. This type of editing is to find basic errors that might have been missed, such as a comma placement or an apostrophe in a word in the possessive form.

The Editing Series

Part 2 of 4: Content Editing Tools

Part 3 of 4: Types of Editors

Part 4 of 4: Industry Editors


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