Writing is a lot like mining. You dig. You sift. You stretch your stiff, hunched back and overturn some more dirt to see what sort of treasures you can discover under the rubble. Finally, you grasp something in your hand, brush away the muck, and realize you’re holding a gem —your 14 carat manuscript. Now all it needs is refining. It’s beautiful, but it still needs work.
Before you either start your manuscript on its rounds to agents and publishers or take the leap and self-publish, you must have an editor go over it with a fine chisel to smooth out rough edges, unfinished bits, incomplete characters or story lines, or just bad sentences which don’t jump out at you. After all, you’ve been staring at your gem for so long by this point you can hardly be expected to see the imperfections. That’s the editor’s job. He or she is the fresh pair of eyes ( http://stacygreenauthor.com/archives/379 ) needed to make the raw gem—your manuscript—into the jewel you know it to be.
It should go without saying that you’ve already self-edited your manuscript to the best of your ability; the editor is there to make the final cuts on your gem and to shine it up, not hew a finished piece of writing out of your rough material. The editor isn’t a ghost writer. So, once your manuscript is at the point that you yourself are not sure what to do with it next, you can figure out what level of editing you’re seeking ( http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/10-things-your-freelance-editor-might-not-tell-you-but-should ).
There are three types of editing to consider. A developmental editor reads your manuscript mostly from a big picture perspective, focusing on concepts and content by tracking your story arc and evaluating elements such as pacing, point of view, character development, conflict/tension, etc., to give you suggestions for rewrites or alterations. This work is to ensure the story is put together well, so it’s best to send your manuscript to a developmental editor first and do any rewriting before you seek out line or copy editing.
A line or copy editor does the nitty-gritty editing work on your manuscript, digging into it on the sentence level to smooth out issues with grammar, syntax, word usage, and sentence/dialogue flow. This is when you’ll get a marked-up manuscript indicating technical elements which need fixed. When the technical stuff is fixed – there’s still a bit more polishing to do. That’s where the proofreader comes in.
A proofreader reads through your manuscript, often after line or copy editing, to catch any simple over-looked mistakes such as misspelled words, grammar and punctuation errors, and problems with sentence structure. This is very detailed work. The proofreader is usually the last person to handle your manuscript before it’s ready to be presented to the publishing world. Many editors will do all three of these types of editing. Your manuscript may not need all three levels, and your editor will help you decide how much editing will be beneficial. The most important decision you can make is finding the right editor, because he or she has to work with you closely to revise your manuscript and help make it your best work.
A good way to start your editor search is by examining freelance editors’ profiles on online job-posting services such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (http://www.the-efa.org/ ).
A good editor’s bio (https://writerswin.com/five-things-to-look-for-in-a-freelance-editor/ ) will be purposeful, to the point, and give you an idea of how intentionally he or she engages with editing projects. Most likely the profile will also specify the editor’s specializations, so look for an editor who has experience editing the type or genre of work you’ve written. An editor’s profile may include client testimonials, which will also give you an idea of the editor’s genre specialties and how the editor interacts with clients.
Once you think you’ve found an editor who might be a good match, contact him or her. An invested editor will ask you a number of questions specific to your work, and many will give a sample edit for free or a small fee. Make sure you can both communicate with the editor easily and that he or she has a clear sense of your style and seeks to preserve it as much as possible.
Regardless of how certain you are you’ve caught all the mistakes in your manuscript, you probably haven’t. That’s why it’s a good idea to have an editor look it over. The editor is going to make sure that your gem is polished: no rough edges, chips, smudges, or dull spots. It’s the finished jewel which will get published.
About Hannah Fortna
Hannah began interning with Amphorae Publishing Group in June 2016. In May, she graduated from Concordia University, Nebraska, with a B.A. in English and a minor in photography. In addition to editorial work for Amphorae, her editing experience includes working as a copy editor for her university’s student-run newspaper, editing her university’s creative writing journal, and freelance manuscript editing projects. After completing her internship, she plans to pursue her career as a book editor, specializing in young adult fiction.