After the writing itself, editing is the most important part of the writing process. It is also the most dreaded and the part that many beginners make the mistake of skipping.
No matter how good of a writer you are, chances are that your manuscript needs editing. There are several reasons for this. The first is nobody is perfect. And the closer you are to someone or something, the less likely you are to see the flaws. You know what you wrote. So you aren’t as likely to see the typo or that words are in the wrong order.
The second is that you probably aren’t as good of a writer as you think you are. I recently got ample proof of that. But more on that topic later.
What kind of editing is there?
There are several types of editing out there that exist in a hierarchy. At the top you have developmental editing and at the bottom is proofreading. As you move from the top of the organizational pyramid to the bottom, the scope of editing changes, as does the price.
- Developmental editing
- Line editing
- Copy editing
Developmental is the manuscript level. The focus is the story-telling. This edit ignores the details but looks at the overall story, looking for plot holes, deus ex machina, and other foundational problems with your story. A developmental editor isn’t going to fix typos or move paragraphs around. In fact, they aren’t going to change anything in your manuscript. Basically, they are going to write the most in-depth book review you’ll ever read. Writer’s Digest offer’s a developmental edit service that promises “12-16 pages of detailed notes on premise, plot structure, pacing, characters, dialogue and marketability.”
It is also the most expensive type of edit. Writer’s Digest service charges $4 per page. Granted, that is standard 8.5×11 pages, not paperback sized pages, but the manuscript for Once Upon a Saturn Moon is only 1/6 finished and already 20 pages. Carried out to its logical conclusion, developmental editing would run nearly $500 for this book. Ouch.
Line editing is the paragraph level. The focus here is the art of writing. A line editor will work to make sure that the words flow and things make sense. A story may or may not benefit from a developmental edit, but it will always benefit from a line edit. Why? Because you are not as good a writer as you think you are. Don’t take it personally, nobody is, not even line editors.
Line editing typically costs about as much as developmental, but there are some tricks for making it more affordable.
Copy editing is the sentence level. The focus here is the mechanics. Copy editors check for grammar, style, and proofreading. Copy editing is much cheaper than line editing.
Proofreading is the character level. Proofreading is typically done by the copy editor, but if you don’t spring for a professional copy editor, it is essential to get a fresh set of eyes to proofread your work. Proofreading looks for typos, misspellings, punctuation, and homonyms (like their vs they’re or its vs it’s). If you pay for proofreading, it will run about half the price of line editing.
Where to find editors
There are several places to find freelance editing. The cost is going to depend a lot on the source. One of the important things to remember is to look for an editor that specializes in what you are writing. If you are writing science fiction, don’t hire an editor who reads crime thrillers.
- Freelance websites
- Critique Circle
Freelance websites. Most people searching for an editor are going to do a google search. “Science fiction copy editor” shows over 41 million results. It’s far faster and easier to use a website that has freelancers sign up and and advertise their services on the site where users rate their work. Popular sites include Odesk, Elance, and Trulancer.
Fiverr. Here’s a secret. Fiverr is just a freelance website. They get a bad reputation because the advertise that gigs are just five dollars. But that isn’t really the case. Sellers on Fiverr will do only as much work as they feel is worth five dollars and do larger amounts of work only with “extras” which can run as high as $50 each. I do the same formatting and conversion services I do here on Fiverr, but I will only work on a 20 page manuscript for $5. For copy editing my science fiction, I use anaiya.
Critique Circle. I actually get much of my copy editing done for free. Story critiques aren’t a true line edit, but they are pretty close if you are cheap or on a limited budget. How Critique Circle works is that you receive credits for critique other writer’s work. Depending on the length of the story you are critiquing and the length of your critique, you will receive between half and two credits for your effort. With three credits, you can have your story inserted into the queue to be critiqued by other authors. Each story gets six crits as they call them.
CC is where I learned that I’m not as good a writer as I think I am. I received glowing compliments on my story, character development and world building, but by and large, everybody hated my actual writing. You can read the critiques I received here. Looks like I’ve got a rewrite on my hands.