K.M. Weiland said in her podcast, Helping Authors Become Artists, “… I don’t want “just” stories—even ones told with proper form and decent style. I want art. I want transportation. I want to experience things I’ve never experienced before. I want characters who challenge me to rise and rise again.”
This quote by one of my writing gurus means a lot. As I said in my previous blog about editing, my goal as a writer is to create art that will last the ages. Lofty, but hey, I’m not opposed to the challenge of a high bar.
To give Weiland the kind of reading experience she wants, which is the same experience most of us readers want, you need more than a copy edit, which is what the first blog was really about. After a conversation with my editor following that blog, I realized I missed an opportunity to share my experience with all parts of the editing process.
If you are already familiar with the different types of editing, be patient. I’ll get to the fun stuff in a minute. For those of you who don’t know there is more than one kind of edit, there are three.
- Copy edit
- Line edit
- Developmental edit
What’s the difference?
Copy edits scrub the manuscript for punctuation errors, point of view glitches, sentence structure troubles and details of story. It is a very technical aspect of editing.
Mostly, the line edit addresses how the writer uses language, their style and the creative aspects of the writing. You would not believe the difference it makes in a story to use sentences in proper order. Line edits could also point out overused words, improperly used words, run on-sentences, language that slows pacing, etc.
Here is an example from The Runes of Evalon.
To help readers deeply experience the story, describe the action first, then the character’s reaction.
Before revision… nothing like either Cailleach’s cabin or a castle. The next sighting took his breath away. A petite woman knelt in a garden, digging around some purple petaled flowers. She glanced up at the sound of his footsteps on gravel. Same dove-colored eyes, small features and bow shaped lips. Briana. Or rather, Briana as a mature woman. Beautiful. He was in the right place and this was Katrina Brennan.
After revision… nothing like either Cailleach’s cabin or a castle. A petite woman knelt in a garden, digging around some flowers with purple petals. She glanced up at the sound of his footsteps on gravel. The sight of her took his breath away: same dove-colored eyes, small features and bow-shaped lips. Briana. Or rather, Briana as a mature woman. Beautiful. He was in the right place and this was Katrina Brennan.
See the difference? Moving one sentence makes the scene flow better, makes more sense and allows the reader to experience the action as it happens in proper sequence.
Line editing may sound the same as copyediting, but it is not. It focus more on creative style and less on punctuation and grammar.
A developmental edit is, in a nutshell, editing for content, structure and fact accuracy. It makes sure the pov (point of view) is the right one, the characters voices are consistent and the scenes make sense. In other words, it is the development of the story. It may also identify missing links. For example, The Prophecy ended with the promise of a faerie army. When I started writing Runes, I totally forgot about that and it was noticeably absent. Jill caught that oops in her developmental edit. That would have been a disastrous mistake. This edit goes deep and can (and probably should) be done prior to a chapter being written. For the writer, it might also be the most painful type of edit. Especially if you do it after you write the book. Remember the meme in the first blog with the editor as the dragon? I suspect some writers do feel that way about their editor, if they hand in a fully drafted manuscript and have it sent back full of strikeouts, comments and red ink. It is possible to avoid that heart attack by doing thorough research, worldbuilding (in the fantasy genre), plotting and timelines prior to writing.
I knew none of this when I wrote The Prophecy. Talk about a newbie. I was that with a capital ‘N’. I handed Jill what I thought was a solid manuscript. What I received back might compare to the burning building of the meme. It was bad. Real bad. I remember sitting at the table in my kitchen one morning a week after receiving my edited manuscript, and bursting into tears. I had failed. Again. Me, a writer? Who was I kidding? It was never going to happen.
That is as far as many people get. And why they never write their novel. And why they think editors are dragons.
Somewhere between my husband’s assurance that I don’t stink as writer and my best friend’s total love of the story, I decided to look deeper at what Jill wrote. Lo and behold, I saw some really positive comments about my writing! And the suggestions for change were good. Really good. I put on my big girl panties and went to work.
I think it took a year to revise. It was hard work. What Jill did on this manuscript was a full on developmental edit, with a healthy dose of line editing as well.
She also taught me to write chapter summaries, which are the planning of each chapter with every detail outline, goals stated, motivation identified, and conflict created. I’ll be honest, I hate doing them. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. However, I realized by the end of The Runes of Evalon, that they actually made the writing go much faster with less editing. Okay, so I only hate it twice.
The final version of The Prophecy that you have (hopefully) read (and if not, what are you waiting for?) is not the same version that I sent to Jill. It was painful to cut as much as I did, but once I saw how much better it was, while still maintaining the integrity of the story I meant to tell, I was convinced of its importance.
I learned so much from the DE (that’s what we call it in the business- LOL) of The Prophecy that gave me confidence to write the subsequent books. Oh, and all the way through, Jill kept reminding me that every editorial choice was mine. Mine? Yep, I get to say yes, I agree, or no, I do not agree. It is my book, my voice, my choice. I truly appreciated the reminder that I had control over this. But remember, you’re paying your editor to tell you what’s wrong with the manuscript. Why on earth would you not accept her recommendations? That would be like taking your car to a mechanic and telling them not to look under the hood.
As to Jill being a dragon—well, that only fits of you’re talking about a dragon who is a patient, kind, encouraging, knowledgable and lots of fun.
One of my missions in life is to extol the virtue of the editor and to encourage every writer to approach the editing process, by first checking your ego at the door and then opening yourself to the wonderful possibities that can come from partnering with someone who can help your book become the best version of itself.
If you happen to be looking for an editor to do a developmental edit on your manuscript, I highly recommend Jill Shultz. She can be contacted at Jill@JillShultz.com. She would be more than happy to answer questions you might have in this blog.