This article lists the other four and a half things NOT to do as part of the writing process.
So, the author has written an out-line, done a first draft, re-written it a couple of times and had a developmental edit done on it. Then it’s re-written again, sometimes making major changes and re-written again. Then……
The copy and line edit – this is the detailed edit which almost all writers employ. It is, as the name suggests, the edit that picks up any spelling, punctuation and errors of grammar (and these still get through, even in the age of spell-checker). Someone has to do this. Don’t skip it. If not a professional editor then a willing proof-reader. Errors in the finished book look unprofessional and put readers off.
It also pick up anomalies, inconsistencies or just authorial slips e.g. in point of view. This was important on ‘The Village’ as those stories used so many points of view and, although I checked and checked again, it needed an outsider to spot things e.g. that a certain character mentions something which they were unlikely to know about. ‘On the Frontier’ also has multiple narrators and, even though I’m getting more used to this and writing accordingly, I can still miss things.
My current editor did both developmental and copy/line edit on ‘On the Frontier’ which is useful, as she can see how the story has developed. Even at this stage there are changes to be made and re-writing done. With ‘The Village’ I had different editors for the two edits ( and ‘The Summer Fete’ had an entirely different editor ) which was interesting as they did not always agree. In fact I think this helped me, because it made me make my own judgement, something which I’d have been more reluctant to do if faced with only one, vastly more experienced view than my own. And it is down to the writer to make her/his own judgement. Don’t duck the responsibility.
I have found working with editors enjoyable and productive. They have been both knowledgeable and authoritative and, even when sometimes I am inclined to disagree with them, I always give their suggestions a go. More often than not I have been very glad I did. Often writers themselves, editors bring their wider knowledge to your manuscript. Many of them, although freelance, have worked in the publishing industry for years. Use an editor if you can. They are, however, costly. I provide an editors list, with current prices, at the end of this post, but, if you know already that you can’t afford to employ an editor then beta-readers are useful.
Beta-readers – these folk, sometimes called ‘writing buddies’ undertake to read (and re-read) your manuscript to spot anomalies and inconsistencies and act as a sounding board for its development. They can be your friends, but make sure the friendship is a strong one and can withstand their critical role. More commonly they are fellow writers, at roughly the same stage and skill level, who offer the service in return for your doing the same, or similar, for them and their work. A writer I know told me how, after he got his line manager’s agreement to his taking leave from his day job (to attend a writing course), she followed him out to the photocopier some minutes later and told him that she, too, wrote. Following their conversation she had quickly checked him out as an author on-line and so felt able to tell him about her writing. They now regularly read and discuss each other’s work.
Beta readers aren’t a substitute for an editor, but they are the next best thing and good beta readers can help prepare a manuscript for publication They won’t cut the subsequent cost of editing, by the way, as copy/line editors charge by the page/number of words, not their quality. If you don’t want, or can’t afford, an editor, don’t try to do it all alone – get a beta-reader or two. Sites like Goodreads and Book Blogs have writers groups where you can find such a person.
The final edit – If you have a publisher, they will do this, preparing the text for publication. If you self-publish it’s down to you. I like to go through my copy/line editor’s corrections and suggestions again, just to make sure that I haven’t ‘reverted’ in re-writing and then I ‘polish’ the text, checking typographical considerations, titles and chapter headings, front matter, end matter, acknowledgements etc.. This is worth doing, errors here can let down a story. Don’t forget this bit.
There’s lots of advice on-line for the writer. Venerable sites like the Purdue Owl, more recent, entrepreneurial sites like The Creative Penn (I visit that one regularly). But the best way of improving and getting better at the process is to write more ( this is the ‘half’ ). An experienced and acclaimed writer of my acquaintance told me that, with her fourteenth novel, she finally began to feel as if she really knew what she was doing – she had had no idea with the first few. So, back to the next book.
List of editors and prices here.