Getting the words on the page is the hardest part of writing, especially if you’re not good at it. Like they say in the movie business, “fix it in post,” meaning fix it in post-production. You can’t revise something that doesn’t exist.
The three stages of editing include developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading.
You’ve already experienced the first editing stage if you’ve completed a draft. While writing the project, you likely removed obvious errors. The structure and organization of the text are the focus of developmental editing.
Copyediting examines the text for accuracy and clarity — the meat of the job — making it more readable, fine-tuning dialogue, and tightening the paragraphs. Grammar and spelling errors are corrected. Formatting and style inconsistencies are also checked. Copyediting also checks for accuracy, such as incorrect data or facts.
Typos and other errors can be checked by proofreading. This process helps ensure that the written work is accurate and correct. Attention to detail is crucial to catching mistakes during this stage. A thorough proofreading is a necessary step before publishing any written work. The last thing anyone wants to see is an error-ridden manuscript.
Writers don’t start this journey at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List. It’s all about starting at the bottom and working your way up. It takes dedication and hard work to climb the ladder of success. You have to be willing to put in the effort and take on any challenge that comes your way. Don’t ever give up, and always strive for more.
Considerations to make during editing
These editing stages are necessary to ensure that the written work is appropriate for its target audience. The following list will get you thinking about what to do:
- Developmental edits: You will likely be rewriting and making changes to the plot, character arcs, etc. Sometimes you’ll take a thread and pull it in a completely different direction. That’s part of the process! But always ask if the edits you’re making serve the project.
- Copy edits: When you copy edit, you’re looking for mistakes that can be removed, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, or other minor details. You’ll be on the lookout for medium-level issues such as repetition of phrases. Consider flagging any ambiguities that you find. This stage is also known as line editing.
- Proofreading: This step means your manuscript is at the point where someone important wants to see it, usually a potential agent or a publishing house. Review your work for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Be ruthless, which is asking a lot, because you’ve probably looked at this manuscript several times now and you have a big blind spot towards it. That’s okay! Step away if you need to before you proofread.
This is a simplified look at the process, of course.
The editing process: how to begin
The focus of your edits might differ based on what you’re writing and how you’re editing.
Look at simplifying the content, switching the wordy parts for short, simple sentences.
The overly flowery or verbose language that sounded wonderful when you wrote the rough draft might prevent your audience from keeping up with you.
Be mindful of your story’s rules and stay true to them. For example, magic users in your story’s world tap into a dark dimension at the cost of physically changing every time they use magic. Maybe you forgot to add details such as skin color changing, eyelid warping, or excessive sweating. Add them in at logical places in the story.
You can also add things to your project if you feel reasonably confident. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; ask for help if needed. Experiment and learn from the process, and you can create something unique.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about the editing process
- There is no set length or size for editing, and the three stages usually overlap.
- Budget-conscious individuals can edit independently. A ruthless friend who is also a writer might be an option, or you could build a group of reliable beta readers. The cost of a professional editor might be within your reach.
- You can do the 3 stages in any order you like.
- Don’t be afraid to step back, evaluate your progress, and decide that enough is enough.
There is no end to editing, and you can always make more changes. So you do have to learn when to stop! Set yourself a timeline and stick to it. This will help you focus on the most critical changes and ensure you don’t get lost in the details.
When it comes to the creative process, an editor can be a priceless asset. This is a service I provide through Writeropolis Industries. Let’s talk!