EDITORIAL

getting all your ducks in a row 

Laboriously check the email for errors.

Click SEND.  

Notice the glaring mistake.

Humans are mostly water, oxygen and shortcuts. When we read, we’re running ahead of ourselves, which is why we can read so quickly. And why editing is so important.

A FEW MISTAKES HERE AND THERE DON'T REALLY MATTER...

"I'd worked for weeks on my opening chapter. I'd got all my ducks in a row. My setting, my two main characters and the flash point. I thought it was really clear. Jac immediately pulled out one word. WAS. It should have read WASN'T. Honestly, I'd read that opening paragraph 500 times. I can't believe I missed it. One word and nothing made sense."

When to hire an editor

With any kind of self-publishing, there's a VERY small gap between your finished product and your potential readers. I've seen too many substandard self-published books. Having a professional attitude towards editing lifts you above the crowd. This is your brand, make your choices count. 

Seeking representation with an agent is a ruthless business. It doesn't matter how good your book is, send out a weak cover letter and no agent is going to bother to look at your sample pages. This is the place to load the dice, failing to grab an agent's attention is a great way to get your script sent to the slush pile. 

REMEMBER: many writers never get their story past the first pile of rejection letters. Agents aren't going to change; you have to change. 

 

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING 

THE TEDDY BEAR TEST

I once heard a story about a professor who kept a teddy bear on a chair outside his office. Students were encouraged to talk through their problems with the bear before they came in to see him. If they hadn't come up with a solution by the time they'd explained it to the bear then he'd meet with them. In articulating a problem we can quite often find a solution. Developmental editing is a kind of teddy bear test. 

You'll sometimes find developmental editing bundled up with manuscript critiques and content editing. I tend to keep them separate because my approach to each is quite different. It's easier to explain with a question: 

 

ARE YOU STUCK?

If the answer is no, you don't need a developmental editor. 

Developmental editing is a radical structuring or restructuring of a script in order to make it work. It isn't a script critique, it isn't a grammar or formatting check, it isn't a line by line prettying up. Developmental editing works on the blueprint, the foundations and the building blocks of your work.

Being stuck isn't the same as writers' block. Being stuck takes the thing you love and tortures you with it. It's pretty near impossible to do an effective developmental edit on your own work because if you knew what was wrong, you’d have fixed it. If you know your script doesn't work, if you have been rewriting the same material over and over and still can't figure out a way to fix it, you need a developmental editor. Explaining the problem to them begins the process of finding the solution. 

A developmental edit is not a drip-feed critique, it’s there to support you through the process of finding out why you're stuck and how to get unstuck. This form of editing is a collaborative, intuitive and organic process designed to uncover the core message of your book and make sure that every part of the story fits with that message. This can include story arcs and character development as well as more subtle aspects like authorial intention.

 

Some people like to work closely, some are more like hummingbirds, they take a piece of advice and go away to work on it. I'm led by you. If you want a step by step approach, we do that, if you're happier as a hummingbird, then we do that. 

COPY EDITING 

Copy editing makes up the bulk of what I do, which is probably why I've written the least about it. A copy edit is a general overhaul designed to establish the authenticity & consistency of the world you've created. It makes adjustments directly onto your script while maintaining the originality, voice and style. It comes at the end of your draft process and is designed to highlight any extraneous language, weak characterisation and dubious settings as well as your choice of words & the structure of your sentences.

It cannot be overrated. 

PROOFREADING

Proofreading comes right at the end of the editorial process. It's the very last check through, designed to find any typos, punctuation & spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and inconsistencies in text. There's no content or structural edit involved in proofreading because it's a proofread, not an edit. Different process; different part of the brain. 

While editing and beta reading will generally pick up on errors, a final and dedicated proofread is vital for any type of submission or publication. If you're lucky enough to have a grammar fiend for a friend, they're worth their weight in gold. Joining a writing group can be useful, especially if it means reading your work aloud. There's nothing quite like an audience to highlight those illusive punctuation mistakes.  

When do you need a professional proofreader? 

I like to say that every script could benefit from professional proofreading, but the truth is that a dodgy semicolon isn't going to put a potential agent off. Publishing houses have their own dedicated team. This doesn't mean you shouldn't get an outside eye on your work. A grammar fixated work colleague might not know a character event horizon from a fractured story arc, but when it comes to proofreading, they're your new best friend. 

However, if you're self-publishing, there's a VERY small gap between your finished book and your potential readers. I've seen too many substandard self-published books. Having a professional attitude towards editing and proofreading lifts you above the crowd. This is your brand, make your choices count. 

Proofreading is an art in itself, and usually charged by the word. Although I tend to pick up errors as I edit, I wouldn't claim to be anywhere near good enough. Recommendations from other writers are best. The society for editors and proofreaders has a directory. If you're stuck, contact me. 

TRY THE TEDDY BEAR TEST

Put your problem into an email. If the process of writing it down hasn't presented the solution then hit send and we can figure it out together. There's no charge for this initial contact. I'll make a few suggestions and if I think you're already doing all the right things, I'll tell you. 

All scripts need proofreading, most scripts need a good copy edit, developmental editing is for the stuff that keeps you awake at night. A good beta reader will pick up on problems and most writers can fix them on their own. Email me if you're not sure and I can point you in the right direction. 

Sometimes all you need is to talk something through

Brainstorming calls 

£30 for 30 mins

Manuscript crisis?  

Sometimes an idea is too big or elusive to pin down. It can be really useful to have someone to talk things through with. 

Synopsis SOS 

Most synopsis' read like a cardboard box, make sure yours is a box of delights.  

This session is a good place to focus on the main points in your story and get that darn thing pinned down. 

Opening lines & hooks 

A 30-minute brainstorm on creating the perfect opening for your book.

Indie is a State of Mind 

Jac Forsyth: writer, editor, creative