• Becky James

The Editing Process

This month I'm focused on getting my debut novel fully ship-shape and Bristol fashion. What's involved? Well, a lot of steps.


There are usually around 3 levels of editors. Developmental editors take a look at your story as a whole. Does it work, does it have high and low points, does it end satisfyingly and come full circle? Do you show and don't tell? Do you have good ramping up to dramatic bits and good slow bits where the prose pauses and takes a breath. (Usually first time authors benefit a lot frm this!) Line / sentence editing: This is where you look at your sentence structure. Do you repeat words and phrases too much? (E.g. I say 'takes a breath' far too much! What other ways can I say it?) It helps point out where your prose becomes repetitive and could benefit from more colourful and enthralling word choice. Lastly, copyediting. This is the final proofread before the novel is finalised for publication. Copyediting should go through again and again until there are absolutely zero mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and consistency in style e.g. use of commas. Indie authors - you should also be going through the same steps. A quality product is a must for the indie, and as you're the only one on your team, you'll have to hire a freelancer. I recommend taking a look at the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading in the UK for your editor. My work has gone through an alpha and been exposed to several beta readers. Now I'm preparing the full 127,000 words for the next step - It's an expense, yes, but I want my work to shine.


Some people assume, therefore, that I love pain. Why would I want to submit my work to be torn apart? Well, besides from the fact that reading makes your writing stronger, editing isn't a bad thing.





Editing is a conversation. It's about making suggestions rather than being corrected. The editor isn't going to 'fix' things or do the work for an author - think of my work as the opener to our conversation.


What would I do or think if my novel came back covered with red ink (or, rather, red MS tracked changes)? Well, editing works best if you see it as a back and forth. If an editor says "Say X instead of Y", I have choices. I can take their hard won advice, because it would bring something to light that I hadn't been aware of before. I can ignore it and go with my gut feel original. Or I can make something else entirely. It's the opening up of possibilities, not closing them down or censorship. A Response to Reviews or accompanying document can be as much if not more valuable to the author, as it will set out the rationale behind the editor's choices.


It's an exciting step, and one I am looking forward to immensely.


(But yes, I will be pleased if I squared the obvious errors away and it's all substantive stuff rather than the easy bits.)

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