Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Importance of Editing: Misconceptions and Details of the Editorial Process

Darlene Quinn, Guest Author

As authors, we know that the writing process itself does not come without countless hours, months, and sometimes even years spent crafting that masterpiece. However, be it an essay, article, or even a book, the work of a writer is far from over at the end of the first draft. For many of us, the hardest, and for some, the most enjoyable work is yet to come.

editingOf course we all want our first draft to be perfection, yet, mistakes are inevitable. As the creators of our body of work, we can oftentimes be so inside of our own creative process that a simple slip of the fingers can easily go overlooked. Words can be misspelled, verb tense can get confused, and sometimes even sillier mistakes can happen that programs like spell check will overlook, like meaning to type “steam” and accidently typing “stem”. Thus being so inside our process we then risk reading what was intended in our minds rather that what was actually written. It happens to each and every one of us and this is why editing is crucial.

Obviously we want our manuscript to be as professional as possible; therefore, at the conclusion of our first draft I personally have found that it is best to give some distance between what has just been written before diving into the first self-edit. I have found that it takes a few weeks to a month to place enough distance between us and our work before starting in on the second draft. Then, after finishing the second draft (or however many drafts it takes to be satisfied) it is finally rime to get a second set of eyes to look over our work. It’s time to edit.

So, what exactly is editing? The view on this particular process varies depending on the type of manuscript and who you talk to, but the overall concept remains in place. Nonetheless, the biggest misconception surrounding the editing process is that a copy edit is merely proofreading. This is not to discount proofreading as part of the overall editorial process, as it is in fact essential, but it is also the last phase of editing.

An actual edit is a more “in depth” account of what has been written. A good editor will assist in improving the flow of the prose as well as the reader’s engagement with the text. This assures that the manuscript is not bogged down by text that does not advance the plot. This part of the process is often called the “substantive” or “developmental” edit. During this phase, the following aspects will be addressed: pacing, repetition, believability, seamless chapter progression, a review of subthemes, and point of view.

In addition to the previous, the editor will also work on heightening the tension in the novel. In doing so, it might become necessary to adjust certain paragraphs and sentences in order to eliminate awkward phrasing and construction in addition to suggesting changes all of which will enhance the overall plotline or a character’s development. For those entrenched in a series, the editor will assist creating the best reading experience for current fans along with engaging readers who are newer to the series. In doing so, the editor will assist in leaving sufficient historical details in place to help orient the latter without bogging down the flow of the story by retaining too much back information.

copyeditsNext comes what is known as a “copy edit”, which is the part of the editing process which is often confused with “proofreading”. This part of the overall editing process follows the author’s review of the substantiative or developmental edits along with the redraft of the manuscript. During the copy edit they will continue to polish the manuscript based upon the issues found during the substantial edit by “listening” for the plausibility of the dialogue and continuing to correct grammar, punctuation, usage oversights, as well as rework any sentences to avoid any unclear or awkward construction.

Finally we come to the proofreading stage of editing. This last part of the editing procedure is to ensure proper technical style along with correcting any final grammatical or punctuation oversights. The editor reviews the composed pages for any potential layout issues and works to make certain that the quality of the final product is in fact ready for retail shelves.

To illustrate this notion, I recently read what could have been a fantastic thriller b a self-published author. The author themselves was a wonderful storyteller who h ad an excellent grasp of language and detail. As I read this particular author’s work, I found no immediate fault with the structure of the story; however, it soon became clear that the material has not undergone a copy edit. There was so much witty dialogue in place that it slowed down the pacing of the story and I found myself beginning to skim over places in the story. This is obviously not the reaction you want your readers to experience.

Self-editing is an essential first, however, having an editor, or that second set of eyes on your work does come with its own unique set of advantages. For example, having worked on a piece for so long, we as authors can become too close to our own work.Being inside of our head, we are blind to some of the more subtle flaws in our work. This is why it is essential to have that other set of eyes look it over. We need someone who can’t fill in the subconscious gaps to say “This doesn’t make sense”, “What did you mean by…?” or, “Igot lost when…”. Therefore, if a professional editor is not within your budget, try finding at least one writer or individual who you trust to give your manuscript a thorough edit.

Remember, it is important to get some distance between the writing process and editing. We must be open to suggestions while being true to the story we want to tell or content we intend to convey to make our work shine.

quinnCopyright 2013 – Darlene Quinn. Darlene Quinn is “The Social Conscience Mentor and Coach!” She has emerged as an award winning author, writing coach, public speaker and board member of several organizations in the literary arena. Visit Darlene’s website:


Authors & Speakers Network Blog

Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at:

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