Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Once you've reached the promised land of a finished draft (or as finished as it can be at the moment), it's time to decide what type of editing your project can benefit from the most. Different types of editing exist for every stage of the writing process, so no matter what your project is in need of, a professional editor will absolutely be able to help you spruce up your work through one or more of the following services.
Developmental editing is typically the most comprehensive service an editor will offer. During this process, your editor will work with you to address any and all areas of your work that seem to hinder the final product. Developmental editing focuses on overall organization and the development of your scenes, characters, and plot. During this phase, an editor may also help with content, giving you suggestions on what to add, where to add it, or even what to remove, if necessary.
Developmental editing is for those drafts in the early stages of the editing phase. Very rarely are mechanical issues, like grammar and punctuation, addressed here because the draft will be edited and altered several times before services like copyediting and proofreading can begin. These first few rounds of edits are in place to make sure the content of your story is strong and effective. It makes no sense to start editing the little things if more errors are going to be made as you continue to write.
Line editing is usually the next phase of the editing process and should only be started once all developmental edits are completed. This service focuses on paragraph-level and sentence-level critiques that help make the overall piece more articulate and deliberate in meaning. Line editing typically addresses emotion, clarity, fluidity, word choice, and the tone of the piece. If there are any sentences that seem to stumble over one another, create confusion, or contradict another section, an editor will be sure to address this and provide suggestions on how to make your writing more clear.
Line editing is for drafts that have been through a thorough round of developmental editing and have a very strong and cohesive plot line with no holes or areas of confusion. Although this service focuses on smaller details than developmental editing, it still does not cover mechanical errors; more big picture items will be fiddled with during this process in order to gain clarity and fluidity within the piece. Once these bigger items have been smoothed out, smaller items can be addressed.
Copyediting is the service that comes to mind when most people think of red-pen-wielding editors. This process finally gets into the nitty-gritty of the manuscript and addresses spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as sentence/paragraph organization, flow, verb tense consistency, and logic. The first round of copyediting is probably the scariest for writers because of the insane amount of markings that end up on the page. This will, in most cases, be the first time your writing has been looked through with a fine tooth comb, and there will most likely be an abundance of mechanical and syntactical errors from the many rounds of previous edits and rewrites.
Copyediting is perfect for drafts that have already been through a few rounds of developmental and line editing. It's important that those big-picture elements are addressed before copyediting begins because it will only slow your editor down and create more work for you in the end if elements, like character and plot development, are just now being addressed. Big-picture issues will not go away by simply skipping important editing phases; they will only create more problems down the road, so make sure you address them early!
The last step of the editing process is proofreading! This step serves as the final check before you submit your writing for publishing/submission and is meant for complete drafts that have been through many rounds of edits. Proofreading addresses the super small details that may have been overlooked during the copyediting phase, like typos, grammar and punctuation errors, and spacing/font inconsistencies. An editor will also check to make sure that information in the table of contents, footnotes, or bibliography correlates to the appropriate information. If your work successfully makes it through proofreading, you can finally wipe your hands clean and prepare for publishing!
Once all phases of the editing process are complete, you can be sure that your work is squeaky clean, polished, and eloquent. It's totally worth it to be honest with yourself with where you stand in the editing process. A professional editor's main goal is to help you produce the best writing you possibly can. They will not look to squeeze every possible cent out of you; instead, they will work with you to decide what your project needs and will only suggest services that will benefit you and your project in the long run.
Leave a comment down below letting me know where your WIP stands! Are you still drafting, are you close to starting your editing process, or are you already deep in the throes of editing? And, as always, subscribe for more tips, tricks, and advice!