So, you’ve finished that brilliant manuscript of yours. What’s next? Find a good publisher, maybe? Nope. You’re overlooking a task that is as important and gigantic as writing the manuscript itself—editing. Editing is a multi-staged, time-consuming process that will take your book from ‘fine’ to ‘best’.
Whether you go for traditional or self-publishing, editing your book before submitting the manuscript is a must. Literary agents and traditional publishers won’t be keen to accept your book if they feel like they need to put a lot of effort to make it sellable. The editors at self-publishing companies too will be able to do a good job of polishing your book further if it is already well-crafted.
You don’t want your publisher or editor to be the first one who read your book apart from you. After the first or second draft, give your manuscript to readers for feedback. Ask them to look at the bigger picture. Is the villain compelling? Is that big-ending convincing and logical? Are the protagonists likable and emotionally engaging? Do that jokes work? Ask them to overlook the typos and grammatical errors because they will be taken care of anyway. Please resist the urge to make your immediate family members or close friends your beta readers. Make sure that your beta reader satisfies the following criteria
Self-editing in itself is a process with several stages. Never think that your book doesn’t need a self-edit. Why should I? I wrote the book by investing my time, effort and energy for months. It simply cannot go wrong, right? Well, it can. There are some changes and corrections your editor cannot make.
For example, Nick was happy to eat pizza. It was his favorite. This sentence indeed tells the reader that Nick is eating a pizza, he is happy and pizza is his favorite.
But look at this. Nick’s mouth watered at the sight of his favorite food. He slowly inhaled the fresh smell of cheese from the slice of pizza. Taking a bite, he felt that all he ever wanted in life was being able to curl up on the couch with his pizza and coke. Can you now feel the happiness of Nick?
The first sentence may be grammatically correct, totally in place with the narrative but it fails to emotionally connect with the reader. No editor can rewrite that sentence for you. Hence, make sure that you make time for self-editing your book
It is also known as story editing or substantive editing. Developmental editors are kind of beta readers, but more advanced and professional. Developmental editing is a time-consuming and expensive process. But if done properly by the right professional, it’s totally worth it.
Developmental editors also look at the bigger picture of your book. Is that flashback of the protagonist’s foster mother totally unnecessary? Is the protagonist a jerk to his friends despite him trying to save the planet? Is the love story stupid and emotionally unappealing? Does that intellectual conversation in chapter 8 have anything to do with the main plot or is it just for showing how brilliant the hero is? How are you going to fix that gaping plot hole in the last chapter? A developmental editor will address all the merits and demerits of your manuscript.
As the name suggests, a line editor will go through every line of your manuscript, checking the tone, style and consistency. If you are writing a novel about a happy-ending, college romance, the tone should be relaxed and happy. If your story is about the survival of a few people from a ravaging war, a melancholic mood will draw the readers. A line editor will make sure you take the reader forward with the appropriate emotion.
After re-drafting your manuscript for the nth time, the narrative is bound to get a bit jumbled. Line editing will help you to rearrange the narrative so that the right information is given to the reader at the right time. Line editors make sure that the style and tone of your writing remain consistent throughout the script.
Copy-editing requires a minimum review. Copy editors do not look at the bigger picture. They need not check if two consecutive sentences make sense together. Their responsibility is to make sure that your manuscript is free of typos and grammatical errors, that your sentences have a syntax and they follow the punctuation rules. The punctuation rules regarding a novel are more than simply enclosing the dialogues in double quotes. So, a copy editor will be able to make sure that the manuscript has a consistent flow. This is the stage just before formatting your book.
This is the final stage of editing which takes place after formatting your book. You may think that since your book has already undergone so many levels of editing, no error might have gone unnoticed. But the truth is that you can never edit a book too much, especially if your book is above 70000-80000 words. Proofreaders will be able to spot errors that might have slipped through all the levels of editing. They make sure that your book is presentable to the readers.