After writing a post on my editing process for Blog Events, I realized many people didn’t know what editing entails. Because it’s not just checking for grammar and typos.
Kevin Hearne has, perhaps, the best explanation of what a book goes through on the traditional publishing route.
But on the self-publishing route? I’d separate editing (by other people) into three separate categories: content, copy, and proofreading.
Content editing looks at… the content. Surprising, no?
Someone who edits for content might answer questions like… Are the characters consistent? Do they sound like individuals? Are there plot holes? Is the plot believable? Is your style and tone consistent throughout the book? Have you closed all your plot threads? Do you have irrelevant scenes?
Content editing looks at whether the book is going to resonate with readers and that it’ll be believable and solid.
My version of copy editing includes both line editing and copy editing. It’s not just checking grammar and typos.
Copy editing involves looks at every sentence and asking, “Is this the best and clearest way of presenting the information?” It makes you sound as brilliant as you think are.
So with copy editing, I might take a mistake-free sentence like: “There was something that wasn’t quite right about the situation” and change it to “Something wasn’t quite right about the situation” because “there + be” is passive and distances the reader.
Unfortunately, no one can guarantee a book free of mistakes. Even when an author has many people read their book before publishing, typos and little mistakes still have a way of sneaking through.
Proofreading is a final check before publishing to make sure those little mistakes haven’t squeaked through. It’s not a substitute for either version of editing.
And one person can’t do it all. Your brain isn’t going to catch every mistake. If I have to focus on fixing little grammar mistakes on a first copy editing pass, for example, on the second pass, I find all kinds of sentence-level issues I missed. Not because I’m a terrible editor, but because my brain can’t catch all those mistakes. No one’s brain can.
So when you read a book that needs an editor (and plenty of those books exist), don’t just say “This book needs an editor”—explain what kind of editing it needs.