Prosing On

The devil’s in the details: copy and line editors

This is the third part in my series on the different types of editing an author can use before publishing or sending out their stories to agents and publishers. Last week I covered developmental editing, and the week before that beta reading. Today I’ll be looking at the more detailed copy and line editing.

You know those fanfics that sound amazing in the summary, but when you start reading you nope out because there are so many errors it seriously detracts from the story? Heart-breaking, isn’t it? That kind of inexperience writing and lack of a good beta reader can be forgiven in fanfiction. But if you are trying to become a professional writer, you don’t want to have a similar problem. Making sure you have the cleanest manuscript possible isn’t just good business sense, it shows you have respect for your reader, too. You don’t want them to get lost in your story because it’s full of errors they have to mentally correct along the way. You want them to get lost in it because it’s that good.

We’ve all know about “shitty first drafts”—getting your story out of your crowded brain and onto the wide open page in whatever sloppy shape it chooses. From there the revision process begins, usually on a structural, or macro, level. Sure, you may correct the random misspelling or word choice along the way if it doesn’t slow you down too much, but it’s not your major concern at the beginning. This is the time for you, your beta readers, or your developmental editor to do their thing and make sure the story itself works. Once the big stuff has been tackled, you can move on to refining your manuscript with a copy or line editor.

What does a line editor do?
A style editor of a different kind.
(Gif credit: lifewithgif.tumblr.com)

A line editor helps a writer with their style rather than fixing the mechanics of writing like a copy editor. They look at the language you use and how it helps tell the story. They aren’t there to change your style to their own, but rather enhance the style you bring to the page and make sure it’s clear and consistent. Line editors can help you find the right tone, tighten up scenes and dialog. They can perform some of the same functions of a developmental editor, but where a DE looks at the big picture, the line editor is the one who plays with the color, cropping, and lighting to make that big picture the most evocative it can be.

Do I need a line editor?

Not necessarily. Much like a developmental editor, working with a line editor will help you improve your writing style and cultivate your voice. If that’s something you believe you need, and want to invest in that kind of support, go ahead! But it’s not a requirement to publish.

If I did have to choose one type of editing as a requirement though before self-publishing, it would be copy editing.

What does a copy editor do?
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A copy editor has several roles. They are your:
• grammar police
• spell checker
• continuity supervisor
• fact checker

While a developmental editor makes sure your whole story works, a copy editor makes sure your story is readable. They take your rough-around-the-edges manuscript and give it the polish it needs for the storytelling to shine through.

When do I use a copy editor?

As I mentioned in my last post about developmental editing, for those wanting to try the traditional publishing route, any editing you do is optional. But doing something to make sure your manuscript and/or sample chapter is fairly clean is a great idea whether you use a professional or not. For self-publishing authors, though, once the larger revisions are complete and you’re satisfied with how the story comes together, bringing in a copy editor is worth the money. They will help clarify your writing, correct errors, and make sure the way your story is written supports the awesomeness of your idea.

Need a copy editor on your publication team? Contact me today to talk about how I can help you clean up your manuscript.

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