What type of editing do you do and what does the process entail?
There are several different types of editing ranging from mechanical (proofreading, copyediting) to developmental (ghostwriting, rewriting). The work I do, substantive editing, falls in the middle of this spectrum and is composed of two parts; line editing and a manuscript critique/editorial report.
As its name implies, the line edit is a line-by-line, word-by-word review of the manuscript. Here, I make corrections for grammar, spelling, syntax, and consistency in style. In addition, I edit for clarity; rearranging and/or reworking sentences and/or paragraphs as needed. If the manuscript needs trimming, I also highlight which sections should be deleted and if additions are needed, I make detailed suggestions as to what those are and where they should go. Aside from the purely mechanical corrections, each change I make or suggest is accompanied by a margin note explaining the change. For less specific or bigger picture changes and/or suggestions, I will add a note at the end of a chapter or section to go over the change in more detail.
The second part of the edit is the editorial report (manuscript critique). In this highly detailed, tailored report, I address all the big picture content issues in your manuscript. This includes (but is in no way limited to) characterization, structure, dialogue, plot, POV, narrative arc, clarity, and genre. Every manuscript is unique and has unique needs. My focus in the editorial report is always on what your particular manuscript needs the most. In addition, if you have particular concerns (a character that isn’t working for you or plot holes you can’t plug, for example), I will address those in the report as well. In addition to all of this, I also provide a list of comparable titles and a market overview within the report.
Although I have always enjoyed editing with a traditional red pen on actual paper, we are far enough into the digital age that electronic editing is not only more environmentally friendly but also more efficient, therefore I am now (reluctantly, I admit) using MS Word to edit manuscripts. One of the advantages of editing electronically is that I am able to send you two copies of the edit once I’ve completed it; a “red-lined,” working copy in which you can see all the changes and notes I’ve made and a “clean” copy with all the changes made so that you can see how the manuscript looks and reads after the edit. Another advantage; neither one of these copies can get lost in the mail and if, for some reason, you accidentally delete the whole thing from your computer, you can rest assured that I will have back-up copies.
However, if you feel more comfortable having a physical manuscript, I am happy to do the edit the old-fashioned way, with a red pen.
Does your service include a second edit once I’ve revised the manuscript?
As a working writer, I understand the need to budget and it is important to me to keep my service affordable as well as comprehensive and thorough. Therefore, I do not include a second edit as part of my service. However, I do provide a follow-up, one-time phone consultation after the edit is completed to go over any questions you might have about the edit itself.
My spelling and grammar are great and don’t need to be edited, but I would like to get an overall sense of what I can do to improve the content of my book. Can you provide that?
If you don’t feel that you need the line edit portion of the edit, I can provide just the editorial report.
I’m very happy with the content of my book and don’t want to make any big changes. However, the manuscript needs proofreading for spelling and grammatical errors. Can you do that?
Since the type of editing I do is substantive editing for content, I am probably not the editor for you if you are at this stage with your manuscript.
My book is not finished. Can you edit what I’ve written so far?
Because I work on a per project basis, I am only taking on completed manuscripts at this time. In order for me to be most effective in editing your work, part of which entails maintaining your voice and vision, I need to see it as a whole.
Can you get my book represented by a literary agent?
Sadly, I cannot. I can, however, refer you to literary agents I think might be interested in your work once it’s edited. I can also help you create and/or refine a query letter; a very important tool to have in the box when approaching a literary agent.
My book is a memoir/academic/self-help/fiction/autism/zombies/young adult/medical thriller/historical/literary/steampunk/coming-of-age/falconry/vampire comedy. Can you edit that?
Do you need to read my book first to see if you like it and want to edit it?
This is probably the question I am asked most often. As counterintuitive as it may seem, whether or not I like your work has no bearing on my method of or ability to edit it and never even enters the picture. Suppose you hired someone to remodel your kitchen using tile, appliances, fixtures and so forth that you’d picked out yourself. That person might not choose the tile or the appliances for her own kitchen—she may not even like the faucet you picked out—but if she’s worth her salt, none of that matters because she will lay the tile and install the fixtures so that they are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. She will also arrange them in such a way (perhaps removing something here and adding something there) so that they work to their best advantage. Her job is to figure out how to take what you’ve given her and shape it into something both beautiful and functional, even if that kitchen is not to her particular taste. This is, essentially, how I approach the edit; whether or not I like your style, story, or subject matter is entirely unimportant.
Having said that, I understand why it’s important to know that the person with whom you’ve entrusted your work feels good about that work. As someone who has been writing almost her entire life, I know how much time and effort goes into writing a book-length manuscript. Writing is a solitary and often very difficult process and the result, no matter the subject or genre, is always very personal. Therefore, I treat every project with the same care, attention, and respect I would give one of my own.