Describing what editing includes is tricky, as there are many levels. One of my writers, Starla J. King, (Wide Awake. Every Day.) asked me to describe the kind of editing I do. She specifically asked, being the good coach and writer that she is, "Which kind of editing fits YOUR vision and business?"
Putting words to this took more time than I had expected and it's important for my clients to understand, so I want to share it here. Thanks for the nudge, Starla!
My initial involvement with copy begins when the first emails are exchanged with a potential client. This is when I usually see a manuscript sample and ask myself some big-picture questions.
-- Is this a good fit for my business and print capabilities?
-- Would I love to work on this project but can see that a specialist in a particular field will need to be called in for one level of the proofing?
-- Does this manuscript stand out from the crowd; is it worth pursuing or does it need a new twist?
-- Does the author have a clear goal for this project?
If it looks like we're a good match, the editing stage begins.
WHAT KIND OF EDITING IS NEEDED?
I do not offer big picture re-writes – structural advice, plot or dialogue development, settings, tension, and the like. I work with manuscripts that the author considers to be final and which have already gone through the rigors of a developmental edit.
It would seem at this stage, that the copy is ready for formatting but fine-tuning is still essential. This is not because the author is lacking in skill or talent but simply because after working on a document for months, it's impossible to spot what a fresh eye can see.
The best way to employ my skills is to trust me to make meaningful edits. The majority of these are grammar, punctuation, introduction of paragraphs or subheads (in some kinds of text), clarification of meaning (If I don't get it, the end reader won't either.), and countless subtle ways to make a writer shine.
The trust comes in because I make suggestions that go past this copy editing level.
I will be able to spot awkward or repetitive word choices, missing transitions, clichés or spots where a character falls out of character.
I basically do copy editing with my creative and analytical brain in high gear.
This is a great opportunity for the writer to take a big breath, lean back, and have the pleasure of a hard-working companion and an enjoyable, creative relationship. If I am publishing the book, I begin the typographic process here too. It's amazing what shows up when the document starts to "look real."
DOES EVERY MANUSCRIPT NEED THIS?
In a word, yes. And it truly is impossible to avoid. Why would we want to publish something that we haven't examined carefully?
I give my final point over to Rumi. “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
It is worth the time to edit well.