Editing options

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Helping you choose the type of editing required for your book …

In my view, all writers should hire a professional editor to go over their manuscript before they consider publishing and whether they choose to work with me or not, my opinion won’t change! Even if your chosen route is self-publishing and you are not considering a submission to a literary agent or direct to a publisher, you still need an editor and I am here to help you get the best for your book.

Taking the time for this in your schedule and budgeting for it as part of becoming a published author is especially important for budding writers in the preliminary stages of their new career.

If that is you then what you might not know is that there are three basic categories or types of editing that are available and you need to understand what these terms mean as you determine what is best for your manuscript. I will explain these three types properly in a moment, but for now let’s just list them and you should start to recognize some of the terminology you might have heard before.

To avoid repeating all the names all the time, I’m just going to label them initially as basic, medium and heavy:

  • Basic editing – copy editing and proofreading
  • Medium editing – line or content or stylistic editing
  • Heavy editing – substantive or structural or developmental editing

As you’d expect these have increasing costs, therefore, it’s important that you understand the differences so that even if an editor says your manuscript needs ‘heavy’ editing, you are well within your rights to request only ‘basic’ and to leave it at that. Never allow an editor to pressure you into spending more money than your budget, but bear this very important point in mind … editors are usually right!

To help you determine what type of editing your manuscript might need, here are a few initial scenarios:

Need for ‘basic’

If you are able to craft wonderful plots and characters, with great descriptions but your grammar needs a bit of work then this the edit for you. It will fix your ‘their and there’ type of problems and correct the grammatical and spelling errors, but will essentially leave the syntax of your story alone.

Need for ‘medium’

If your dialogue sounds stilted and forced or perhaps your descriptions are a little wooden or repetitive then you need an editor who will tweak your characters’ words until they sound more natural and they will add some new dimensions to your descriptions or cut them back; a common problem for new writers is to incorrectly believe that lots of words for descriptions is good.

Need for ‘heavy’

If you have been trying to follow a more traditional route to publishing and have a handful of rejection letters from literary agents, which commonly tell you that your plot or characters are underdeveloped, then you need an editor who can help with your manuscript as a whole and make the necessary adjustments.

Need for all three?

Unless you are really seasoned author with a good few published then in a truly ideal world, if you can afford it, you should have a heavy, then a medium and then a basic. As you understand the ideas behind book editing better, it can only help your book to have a developmental edit (heavy), then a line edit (medium), then a copy edit or a proofread.

For a short story, it’s not uncommon for an editor to do a developmental edit, line edit, and copy edit all at the same time. For a novel, however, if you are planning on all three levels you need to keep things in order. It doesn’t make any sense to have a copy edit done before a developmental edit if the latter turns up some major flaws that require rewriting multiple scenes.

Let’s now look at the three types in more detail in terms of what my editing services offer.

Basic editing – copy editing and proofreading

On a limited budget, the type of editing for which you might hire an editor for is proofreading. This is the simplest form of editing and this is usually the cheapest. Proofreading is for writers who don’t need help with sentence structure or the content of the book itself, but need someone to simply go over the text for basic grammatical and spelling errors.

It usually takes an editor about two weeks to proofread a full-length manuscript and the purpose is to have someone who has never read your book go over each word for errors that might have escaped your attention, which will happen at least a few times in a full-length manuscript. With even the most diligent author, when you’ve read it so many times yourself already, your start to learn what it’s supposed to say and so your brain can skip read it will still make sense!

Copy editing goes over things like spelling, punctuation, capitalization, essential syntax and facts. As alluded to already, this is often the final touch to a manuscript after more heavy edits. This type of edit will also trim the odd unnecessary word and change passive sentences to active ones and usually they’ll correct your formatting.

For fiction, a copy edit may include catching continuity errors as well, for example, your hero might have blue eyes on page ten but green eyes by page eighty! For non-fiction, your basic edit might check and flag potential factual errors.

If you have big issues still in your book at this point, your copy editor should tell you but it’s not their job to fix them. If they catch them early enough in the book, they will probably recommend you have developmental or line edit done first and then return to the copy edit.

Medium editing – line or content or stylistic editing

The most common description for the medium types of editing, the one that most editors offer, is line editing, which is a little more detailed than copy editing. If your manuscript has plot holes, limited characterization, factual errors or syntactical problems, line editing is probably what you need for your book. It costs more than a basic edit, but a manuscript with structural errors won’t get past a literary agent or publisher if that is the desired route for your book.

A line edit will cover things like word choice, paragraph flow, smoothing out awkward or wordy sentences, eliminating repetition, catching clichés and other style issues. During a line edit, your editor will also point out areas where you need to clarify what you’ve written and suggest things like where your transitions over time or place are weak.

In essence, the purpose of line editing is to tie together the loose ends in your novel’s manuscript and to make sure that the story flows properly. For non-fiction, line editing will catch factual errors and will also help to separate chapters and paragraphs so that they make more sense.

Heavy editing – substantive or structural or developmental editing

The heavy editing service offered by most editors is the developmental or substantive edit. I prefer to use the term developmental because it seems more meaningful. This type of edit involves the identifying the need to rearrange, delete, add and reword entire pages and chapters and sometimes crosses the bridge into being more of a ghost writing service than an edit.

Should your manuscript need this type of attention, I will work with you to determine your need for a creative rewrite or an edit. Essentially, with an edit, I will identify the work you need to and leave it at that, for ghostwriting, I will make the changes on your behalf, which is of course the more expensive option.

It’s very important that you understand that a developmental edit is different to the copy edit or line edit in that the editor does not actually make changes to the book; they only provide you with a detailed understanding of where you need to make the changes. As with most developmental edits, I will provide you with an editorial report that could run up to around twenty pages for an average novel.

This isn’t an all-inclusive kind of edit and doesn’t involve correcting your punctuation and grammar or smoothing out awkward sentences as well. It’s about the broader issues of characterization, setting, plot, too much/not enough backstory (explain character background), too much or too little description, dialogue, mixing POVs and making sure each scene has a clear goal and enough tension.

Having read this information about developmental editing and wondering if your manuscript might need such attention, you can always get my early views. What you can do here is ask me to complete a manuscript assessment where I take a look at your book and provide some analysis on its strengths and areas in need of improvement. Each developmental edit will come with a summary about your book that I call the Editor’s Report and these are available independently from asking us to complete the edit.


When considering you editing needs the most important thing is to talk to me first, tell me where you are with your manuscript and what you feel needs to be done and, of course, what your budget is!

Yes I set out my fees for different edits, but the point to remember is that I’m always flexible. No two manuscripts are the same and my aim is always to give you the best value for money possible. So please get in touch with me, give me some initial indications of what you are looking for and some ideas for your budget and we’ll take it from there. Contact me … today!

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