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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.

Duck Keychain

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. Then I showed it to a friend. They 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. Life isn't going to change; we have to change. 

 

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING 

Teddy Bear

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 their approach to your script will be 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 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. Find a developmental editor that works the way you do. 

COPY EDITING/EDITORIAL REVIEW

By the time I handed the script for ØRMA over to Silver Crow Books, it was on version 10. I was pretty confident that it was as good as it could get. A month later and I had a ten page report on style, structure, setting and technical accuracy. To say the book is better for an editorial review would be like saying life is better with oxygen. 

 

A copy edit is a general overhaul designed to establish the authenticity & consistency of the world you've created. It will make 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'm too familiar with my story, and in my experience it's impossible to professionally proofread your own work. Recommendations from other writers are best. The society for editors and proofreaders has a directory. 

Teddy Bear

TRY THE TEDDY BEAR TEST

Put your problem into an email. If the process of writing it down hasn't presented the solution then you need outside input

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. If you can work with someone who doesn't know you, this will be even better. Email me if you're not sure and I can help point you in the right direction. 

Indie is a State of Mind 

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