Structural editing, also known as developmental or substantive editing, is the initial level of the editorial process. It deals with improving the quality of content by making sure that it is properly structured and cohesive. Before starting the structural edit, it is essential to note that the manuscript is completed in order to get a full picture of the plot.
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The structural editing process is done with a few basic premises in mind.
Key components in the editing spotlight
Firstly, the plot is one of the major elements that is focused on during structural editing. It is evaluated to make sure it is free of inconsistencies, plot holes or incorrect facts. Additionally, revisions are done to make sure that the novel has a clear exposition, rising action, climax and resolution.
It is key to analyse the overall structure of the novel. The editor must look for areas that can be improved—removed, restructured or revised— to improve the flow of the story. Likewise, the theme or central idea of the book should be consistent throughout. The editor, once again, must pinpoint sections that can have more emphasis concerning the theme.
From a structural perspective, the story can be broken down into smaller parts but they must serve a purpose. At this level of editing, any scenes that are deemed to be unnecessary or deviating from the main arc of the story must be removed. By structuring the story in this way, the readers can fully involve themselves in the novel.
It is important to make sure that each is given the weightage it needs—not more, not less. The story must flow at a steady pace. But this doesn’t mean that the number of words allocated to each scene should be the same. Scenes of conflict or importance can take up more words, provided it doesn’t drag too much.
Next, the editor must evaluate the setting of the story. It must be detailed in a way that provides the necessary context for the novel.
Essentially, details about the atmosphere or character must not be simply packed in a paragraph or two; they must be presented in a more strategic way that doesn’t make the readers confused. Similarly, dialogues also need to be written in a natural and comprehensive manner. These are fundamental in making the story resonate with the audience.
A good story is one where the audience can see gradual but prominent character development. The characters must be well-developed and their actions should match with their motivations. To make this process easier, a list can be made before writing providing a character sketch. It helps the writer be consistence and serves as a template for the editor.
Similar to how the beginning of a novel should be intriguing, the end must be satisfying. The novel can end with a cliff hanger. However, it must not seem incomplete. It is up to the author’s discretion to leave the story open-ended but doing so must serve a purpose and must not leave the audience unfulfilled. A great novel book will leave a lasting emotional impact on the readers, making them feel what the characters in the book are feeling.
After a structural edit, the editor will give their final evaluation and critique to help the author revise the manuscript. In conclusion, structural editing is an art that helps authors deliver what they wish to their audience. By paying meticulous attention to the details, an author can craft a novel that compels their audience to finish the book in a single sitting.