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  • Writer's pictureDarren M. Palmer

The Editing Process: Editing Styles & Pro Tips EVERY WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW

Editing is a process; embrace it and enjoy it. It’s one of the most critical steps in having a great book! Submitting a rough draft is when the real work begins. Want to write the best possible book? You need an editor. They are critical for making your writing “tight” and immersive. But before you do, you need to understand the process.

At Self Publish -N- 30 Days, before the editing begins, the most valuable skill you can bring to your project in perspective. Far too often, an author will jump straight into a copyedit, only to be told that substantial changes need to be made to the story or characters. Then they find themselves facing delays of going back for a developmental edit and then another copyedit.

This is why our professional editors ensure that your manuscript gets the edits needed to create a great book. You are still in complete control of your book; however, we will share our expertise and work alongside the author every step of the way. Editing takes commitment and collaboration and it’s all about bite-sized pieces of information because this process can get overwhelming.

Our goal at Self Publish -N- 30 Days is to provide you, the author, with an outside perspective. Because if you intend to become a successful author (whatever that means to you), there’s no replacement for professional assistance and correct procedure for editing. With this in mind, you’re ready to go forth and conquer — the world of publishing, that is! Let’s explore more!

Editorial Assessment

If your manuscript isn’t quite ready to be edited, but you still want to get some feedback on it, you may need an editorial assessment. If your manuscript is completed, an assessment and developmental edits are still a great addition!

An editorial assessment is best for an author who is early in the process and whose manuscript may be messier. So an editorial assessment is similar to an editorial report, but with less detail. It should give you some concrete ideas about how to construct your story. However, it won’t have the nuance of a full developmental edit, so don’t rely on an assessment alone to perfect your manuscript.

I will also add that our editors will give you feedback and suggestions during the assessment. This is the time to add more content if it’s needed. The focus during that time is about the content, not so much the grammar and punctuation. That comes a bit later.

In most cases, within our company, our editors perform an editorial assessment along with content/developmental editing depending on the author’s manuscript. Because each manuscript is different, it is processed and assessed according to what it needs. With that said, receiving an in-depth edit may not be included if the manuscript is incomplete. There have been plenty of instances when the author thought they were finished writing, but only had a 20-page book that needed a lot more details!

Before breaking down the different editing stages, I want to give a bit more insight into an editorial report. (We usually add this with the assessment, but just so you are aware of what to expect.)

The editorial report is a general critique of everything your editor thinks you should change (during the developmental edits/initial assessment), along with commentary on what’s functioning well and should stay in your work. Meanwhile, the annotated manuscript is a marked-up version of the manuscript itself, with specific suggestions as to how you can fix each issue. You might think of the annotated manuscript as the editor’s raw feedback and the editorial report as a summary of that feedback.

There are several areas of editing. Every publishing company and editor has specific verbiage, so for time’s sake and clarity, I’m just going to discuss the main ones our team focuses on.

Content editing offers corrections, pointing out incomplete sections, and offering advice on smoothing the flow and construction of chapters, sections, and subsections.

Developmental editing takes place early and usually consists of questions like, are you leaving out any key details? Is there irrelevant material that needs to be cut?

Copyediting focuses on the flow and feel of your language.

Proofreading seeks to fix only grammar, spelling, and factual errors.

For fiction writers, a developmental or structural edit will focus on the plot, the characters, and the story as a whole.

Formatting refines all the elements of your book’s including typography, margins, chapter headings, and page numbers.

A content edit provides you with a paragraph-level set of markups on your manuscript. A key focus for a content edit should also be the tone and voice of your manuscript. A content editor should be aware of your target audience to ensure that your content comes off (tone) is a good fit for that audience and that the writing sounds like you (voice).

The critical difference between a content edit and a line edit (two terms that are often used interchangeably) is that a content edit is not as detailed as a line edit. It exists between the high-level view of a developmental or evaluation edit, and the ground-level view that a line editor takes as they work through each line of your manuscript.

A content editor won’t move your chapters around, but they will move sections or paragraphs around within your chapters, move content to different chapters, or delete some content entirely. Our team usually shares what they believe may need to be changed and let the author work through the manuscript that works best for them.

Think of it this way: a developmental edit helps build the house (the book) and figure out which rooms (chapters) should go.

With those rooms in place, the content edits help arrange the furniture (sections and paragraphs) inside those rooms in an appealing way. Unlike line editors, they’re not concerned with the decorations (sentences).

Our team helps the author determine what kind of editing their manuscript needs to make the most powerful impact.

Developmental editing is sometimes referred to as substantive editing and it can even be done simultaneously with content editing. It includes editor providing detailed feedback on “big-picture” issues. This is when the author’s ideas are refined. These edits shape the narrative and help fix any significant plot or character inconsistencies. The editor will look at just about every element of the story and share what works and what doesn’t.

For a developmental edit, the editor may ask more thought-thought-provoking questions. This is typically one of the first steps in the editing process. After all, you don’t want to get your manuscript proofed or formatted if you haven’t even fleshed out the plot yet! A developmental edit ensures your story’s up to snuff before moving forward, so you don’t end up copy-correcting work that’s just going to get thrown out anyway.

Copy Editing/Line Editing

Once you’re confident that you’ve solved the big-picture issues of your book and done any necessary rewrites, it’s time to dive into copy editing! This type is also known as mechanical and sometimes line editing, depending on its particular application.

A copy editor’s responsibility is to bring the author’s completed manuscript to a more professional level. A copy edit helps create the most readable version of your book, improving clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness. The goal is to bridge any remaining gaps between the author’s intent and the reader’s understanding.

What elements do copy editors consider?

A copy editor examines and corrects the following elements in your work:




Word usage and repetition

Dialogue tags

Usage of numbers or numerals

POV/tense (to fix any unintentional shifts)

Descriptive inconsistencies (character descriptions, locations, blocking, etc.)

Essentially, while a developmental editor will address overarching issues with your story, the copy editor looks at more minute details. After all, it’d be pretty distracting to your reader if you constantly misuse dialogue tags or misspell the word “restaurant.”

Copy editing (line editing) ensures that errors like these don’t happen, so your writing is as strong as possible, and your reader remains 100% focused on the story.

Line editing is similar to copy editing, but it focuses specifically on your content and flow. It’s also called stylistic editing since it concentrates on style rather than mechanics.

It still falls under the umbrella of copy editing, but it’s more precise. While a full copy edit looks at all of the elements listed in the bullets above, a line edit would only take word usage, POV/tense, and evident inconsistencies into account, and provide more detailed suggestions on how to strengthen the prose itself.

Obviously, spelling, grammar, and other mechanical elements are critical, but a line edit would not attend to these so much as to create content.

Proofreading was the final significant bit of work you’d need to do for your manuscript. But for your book as a whole, the final stage is formatting. This is cleaning everything up before going to interior design (format for print); however, depending on the condition of the manuscript, formatting can also be done in the beginning to help clean up everything, so it reads better. It all depends on your editor, but just know the formatting will be addressed before it’s published.

Formatting helps fix aesthetic things that a proofreader might point out in their final read-through. And while those of you with super-simple formatting might not need it, format editing is an absolute necessity for anyone whose book is design-heavy or extremely dependent on formatting to convey the story.

For any writer, the world of editing can be very intimidating — especially when trying to figure out what you may or may not need. There are so many types of editing out there; it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin!

But this process doesn’t have to be so daunting, primarily when you work alongside a team that walks you through the process. I hope you have a better understanding of what the editing process looks like. This is why I stress the importance of committing throughout the entire process because the editing process is work. All the different types of editing relate to one another to some degree.

At Self Publish -N- 3o Days, you don’t have to wait until your manuscript is finished before you begin working with us. Ready to get started?

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