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Narrative & Style Editors

Part 3 of 4

You will find that some of the types of editors here overlap with the different types of editing techniques from our last post. This will help you navigate which editor is best for you depending on the stage of your work (especially for freelance and self-published writers), and who you will meet and work with if signed to a publishing firm.

Working with an editor does not mean that you do not do editing yourself. For example, with something like developmental or structural editing, you not only know the goal of your work the best but the specific message it is to give. Editing your work initially and sitting with your intentions, makes you more prepared to answer questions that the editor may have as they seek to make these goals and intentions the best. Editing your work also helps you highlight aspects of the work you have the most concerns and insecurities about so that you can get the most out of the editor’s feedback.

The most important reason to edit your work before meeting with an editor is that it allows you to figure out where to place constructive criticism and how you align with it. Criticism, even when well placed, does not mean it is the best path for you, and knowing various editing styles and techniques beforehand can help you to honestly assess this.

Without further delay, here are the different types of editors.

Narrative editors

Beta-reader: A beta reader allows you to see how your work would be received as relatable by the public. Sensitivity readers are also part of this, as they take into account the heritage of characters within a work, and how similar demographics outside that work will receive it. For example, if you are writing a story about a Jamaican immigrant who is a first-generation student in college, it may be helpful to have black immigrant groups, or Jamaican immigrants specifically, read your work prior to publication to see if what you write is true to their experience.

Critique partner: You can think of a critique partner as a peer editor. They are usually authors as well and so can see the work from your perspective and understand certain creative intentions. Their edits will often be more attentive to style and prose, as well as narrative elements rather than grammatical elements.

Developmental editor: In an industry setting, a developmental editor is guiding you from start to finish, helping you develop your work. As such, a developmental editor may also do substantive and structural editing to get you to the end goal. However, in larger companies, and particularly for larger works, the role is split, and you would be working with a developmental editor separately from a substantive editor. Developmental editors can point out general trends in your work: whether errors or in terms of narrative and are able to do a bit of fact-checking for you.

Substantive editor: If done separately in an organization, a substantive editor will focus on dramatic shifts in a given work; this will include structural editing or larger shifts in the narrative. Sometimes, these edits can be direct, with the substantive editor doing these changes rather than simply suggesting them to you.

Style Editors

Copy/ line editor: These editors are attentive not necessarily to the story, but how the story is told. As such, they are looking at sentence structure, mild organization, grammar, syntax, and prose. They may also be attentive to things like dialogue and dialect, taking into account certain aspects of a character's characterization.

Mechanical editors: While there are separate editors for this, it is often done with copy and line editing. If you are writing for a publication that has a particular style guide, these are the editors you need, as they make edits to match the organization’s style guide. For example, if you were to submit to a scholarly journal that uses APA, they would be able to look at APA formatting and make grammar and structural suggestions and edits based on this. The way APA requires you do serial lists is different from, say, MLA.

Proofreader: This editor is responsible for the end product. They have the task of catching anything that was leftover from copy and line editing. When your work has reached this person, you are in home stretch. If you miss an apostrophe in “it’s,” a proofreader will catch it. These are edits that can be corrected with one touch on a keyboard; at this stage, no restructuring is being done.

The Editing Series

Part 1 of 4: Book Editing Basics

Part 2 of 4: Content Editing Tools

Part 4 of 4: Industry Editors



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