So you want to write a book.
Or you have a finished manuscript that you want cleaned up.
There are four types of editing that you can rely on, but it is important to know what you need as well as what the work needs. The four are; developmental, substantive/structural, copyedit, and proofread. There is a fifth one that is the production edit, but that is done after the book has been printed and usually includes style and design issues.
The quick and dirty explanation of all four is easy. The developmental is at the entire manuscript or chapter level. The Substantive/Structural is at the paragraph level. The copyedit is at the sentence level and the proofread is at the word level. But that doesn’t tell you what all these different editors can do for you.
Developmental editing is useful if you have a manuscript and it is not working as a whole, or you have an idea but no idea how to structure the book. This editor can help you figure out your narrative style, whether you want to weave three stories in and out and end all the stories at the same point or if you want each section to be one theme and the chapters within to be each from a different perspective. The options are limitless and this stage is where you narrow down what the book is going to say and what it will do in the world.
Substantive/structural is a little more complicated. Here you move around whole chapters (if the manuscript is complete) or delete entire sections. Maybe there is a character that needs to be removed from the entire work or the dialogue needs to be cut down to speed up the scene. This editor will also fix formatting issues, so indenting your paragraphs all the same or italicizing flashbacks.
Copyediting is vital to the manuscript. If you have a work that you think is good to publish, check it through a copy editor first. There maybe issues at the sentence level that you did not realize were there. This is the line-by-line edit that clarifies meaning, eliminates jargon and smooth’s language. I find this one the most useful because here you have point-of-view and tenses fixed. (In my own writing, tense is my nightmare). This is also where the BIG 7 get checked.
Lastly, there is the proofreading, where all your words get checked to one dictionary (Webster, Oxford). For those with a Canadain story set in Canada, have your manuscript checked for Canadain English as there are some differences between Canadian and American writing besides the word colour. Also, this where the fact checking happens did that main character live in Holland in 1783 or 1784.
After all this, the manuscript is all clean and ready to be put into a publishers hand.
Now, remember, you don’t have to edit the manuscript before handing out. But why wouldn’t you? You want the work to be seen in the best light, and having it edited will give the manuscript that extra edge when sitting in the slush pile.