How I Work as an Editor

Reference materials used:
Dictionary - Merriam-Webster
Style guide - Chicago Manual of Style

Manuscript Evaluation

Time frame: anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, depending on manuscript length.

This is a broader overview of a project; my gut feeling (what works for me and what doesn't), combined with my knowledge of the writing craft. In other words, a high-powered beta reader.

What would I evaluate?

  • Overall plot – Is there a balance between the action/rising tension and rest? Does it stay focused or stray? Are there too many sub-plots?
  • Characterization – A broad viewpoint on the protagonist, the antagonist, and the cast of characters
  • Pace – Too quick, too slow?
  • Voice – Is it consistent throughout the story and within the character(s)?
  • Psychic distance – A general overview of how far the reader sits from the main character(s).
  • Exposition – Is it pervasive/overused? Does it bog the story down?
  • Scene and narrative – Is there a good balance between the two?
  • Starting point – Does the story start in the correct place?
  • Suspension of disbelief – Does the story maintain it?
  • Melodrama – Do the characters overreact in/to certain events?
  • Sensory description – Is there enough for the reader to picture a setting/experience a scene?
  • Wordiness – Are there words or phrases that eat up too much word count and sprawl sentences?
  • Conflicts – Are they too easy/too hard for the protagonist?
  • Dialogue – Is it stilted, weak?
. . . and with an evaluation, my comments will be less pinpointed/more general, with a handful of broader examples to give you a chance to apply relevant feedback to the entire project.

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Chapter-by-Chapter Content Editing 

Time frame: anywhere from 3 to 6 months (including author revision time), depending on manuscript length and the shape it's in.

This approach is a bit more in-depth; I go point-by-point throughout the entire project, nitpicking everything. 

If I haven't already evaluated the project (see above), or if the project has changed drastically from the initial evaluation, I first read the full manuscript through as a reader to get a feel for how everything all sits and fits together. Then, I don my editor’s cap and read through it again in its entirety, picking it apart, chapter by chapter. I question everything—and I do mean everything. Doesn’t matter how minor it might be, I question it. You never know who might pick up on what.

Specifically, I pinpoint everything listed in the evaluation (again, chapter-by-chapter), plus:
  • POV (point of view) errors
  • Insufficient hook
  • Inconsistencies
  • Impossibilities / major and minor plot holes
  • Characters: flat / weak / proper development
  • Out of place scenes or events
  • Scenes or events that are too short / too long
  • Unintentionally breaking the fourth wall
  • Unintentional intrusive narrator 
. . . and a host of other things, depending on what’s in the manuscript.

Please note: As the author, you know your book best. All suggestions and comments in my manuscript evaluations and chapter-by-chapter content work are designed to guide the author in considering alternative possibilities; to help strengthen different plot lines (major and minor), scenes, characters, or narrative; to raise awareness of places where a reader might put the book down.

Clarity and logical progression / logical thinking are the main keys in all aspects of a novel, and I always deliver my feedback with the utmost respect (though at times tempered with some good humor!).

I also respectfully ask my clients to first absorb my evaluations/content work feedback and consider everything carefully. As an author myself, I understand our first inclination (sometimes) is to defend every element of our projects, which can be detrimental to its overall growth. Readers and editors will view projects differently from how their authors see it, but authors always have the last say in any suggested revisions.

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Line Editing 

Time frame: anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks, depending on manuscript length and its structural shape.

In this step, I tweak the mechanics (sentence structure) of the project for strength, clarity, and flow while maintaining the author’s original voice throughout. No, I do not completely rewrite a project. It’s your book, not mine. I will, however, sometimes suggest wording that could tighten certain elements or scenes. (Again, authors always have the last say in any revisions.)

After the first line editing run-through is complete, I re-read the project out loud to ensure everything flows smoothly. The mind sometimes misses what the ear can hear readily, so this step is always crucial.

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Time frame: anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on manuscript length.

In this last stage (once a previously line edited clean copy has been sent back), I polish and refine, searching for spelling errors; missing or extra punctuation, words, capitalization, etc.; extra character- or line spaces; and so much more. Again I read the entire project out loud so I don’t miss anything.

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