Finishing touches

However great a man’s natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau

So you’ve finished your first draft and it’s time to begin the often painful process of reviewing and improving, to get your manuscript to the best possible place before you start to send it out into the world.  But it can be difficult to be truly objective about something that is so important to you. And there are options available to you, professionals who can help.

I’m a strong believer that, if you want your readers to have the best possible experience, professional finishing – by which for the purposes of this blog I mean development editing, copy editing and proofreading – is a necessity. But what does each of these roles involve?

A developmental editor’s role is to polish your manuscript. First there’s the overall structure of the book. Does it work in its current form or would it be better if scenes were rearranged or deleted, or new scenes were added? Then there’s content. Are all your scenes complete or do you have plot-holes? Do any characters need to be fleshed out? Do you have too much descriptive text? Is the tense and point of view consistent throughout and appropriate for the story?

The roles of copy editor and proof reader, while similar, have some important differences. Copy editing involves editing for publication, in particular checking punctuation, spelling, grammatical structure, style, but also for factual accuracy and changes to the copy that would improve flow and consistency. The role of the proof reader is to read copy in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected, including formatting errors, and check any changes made by the copy editor have been correctly applied.

So, at its most basic, developmental editing gets a book ready for the copy editor while copy editing gets it ready for a publisher or printer and proof reading makes sure that there aren’t any typographical errors in the final product.

Let’s be honest, self-published books are too often full of errors. Whether you do it yourself or use external help, why wouldn’t you get those typos and layout problems sorted before you publish?

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