Almost all authors know that they SHOULD have an editor. Writing the first draft or manuscript is just the initial step in the process of getting your book to publication, whether fiction or non-fiction. Ideally, your work should go through at least two or three rounds of editing and proofreading; each type has a different function.
Which comes first: proofreading or editing? Well, that depends on your goal.
Proofreading usually consists of making sure that your document is grammatically correct, that all words are spelled correctly, and that proper punctuation rules are followed.
Many people think that just running your document through the “spell check” in your word processor is enough—wrong! The English language is much too complicated for that. Your editor should be a true expert in the nuances of English, as well as a person who excels in the very peculiar spelling and punctuation rules, including homographs and homophones.
[Homographs are words that are written alike but have different meanings. Homophones are words that should alike but have different meanings.]
The editor you hire to proofread your work should read every single word of your document, making each and every spelling, punctuation, and grammar correction individually. That is a very time-consuming task, but essential to ensure that your document is error-free. After your work is proofread once, then it should be proofread again, after at least a couple of days have passed—just to make sure. Then your work should be proofread at least one more time, after all other editing has been completed.
Editing a document is a higher-level service that experienced editors provide. Actually, there are several levels of editing that should be completed on your document:
- Line-by-Line editing is the next step up from proofreading. Are the paragraphs in your document properly delineated? Ideally, each paragraph should contain a separate idea or concept. Are all of your sentences complete? There should be no run-on sentences, no phrases that are intended to be sentences, and so on.
Substantive editing is the process of checking your document for clarity, style, and overall structure. Often, the very first draft of a manuscript or non-fiction document is unorganized. The purpose of substantive editing is to bring an organizational structure to your manuscript or text, without changing your original goals or ideas.
Developmental editing is the most detailed level of editing. At this level, the author and the editor are the most collaborative. The developmental editor you hire should provide:
—Edits with trackable changes within your document.
—Specific recommendations for character and background development.
—Creative input and original ideas to improve different aspects of the narrative.
—Improved writing suggestions for the dialogue and visual descriptions of your manuscript or non-fiction text.
—Recommendations for improved flow and clarity that respects and matches the input of the document.
To ensure that your manuscript or document is perfect before publication, you as the author should budget both the time and the budget for three – five levels of editing and proofreading.
Your editor is your partner in the production of your book, and brings knowledge, skill, and experience to your project. Working together with mutual respect and understanding will make your writing project much more successful and in a timely fashion.