Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This Writing Life 9: More Editing and Editors, or More Than Just Copy vs Substantive

(Sorry this one is a late. I was sick. I'll be blogging about health next week.)

Last week we talked about why you need an editor. And you do. Sometimes a publisher supplies the editor, sometimes you want a piece edited before it goes to the publisher, or to the agent you are trying to get.  If you are self-publishing you definitely need an editor. And if you don’t think you do, don’t self-publish, ever.  Seriously.

That said, different editors have different skillsets, and in order to know which editor is best for you, it’s best to know which skills editors offer.

The Editing Editors Do When They Edit

When writers think of editors, we tend to think about two types, Copyeditors and Substantive Editors. Some quick definitions, from of the Editors Association of Canada (EAC):
  • Copyediting: Editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation and other mechanics of style; checking for consistency of mechanics and internal consistency of facts; marking head levels and approximate placement of art; notifying designer of any unusual production requirements. May include Canadianizing; metrication; providing or changing system of citations; writing or editing captions and/or credit lines; writing running heads; listing permissions needed and/or obtaining them; providing or editing prelims, back matter, cover copy and/or CIP data. May also include negotiating changes with author.
  • Substantive Editing: Clarifying and/or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure. Changes may be suggested to or drafted for the author. May include negotiating changes with author.
Now, that’s a fair amount of work, but there are a lot of other things that editors do knowing them will make it easier for you, the writer, when you go looking for an editor.

(Assuming you are a writer. Because if you’re not, why are you reading this?  Are you stalking me?  Are you analyzing me?  Are one of the alien monsters coming to take over this planet by entering the minds of its intelligentsia?!!!!)

(See what happens when you don’t use an editor?)

Here’s a list from the EAC of the different services editors can provide. I’m not going to give you the descriptions of each, because you can find them all right here.
  • Developmental / Project Editing
  • Substantive or Structural Editing
  • Stylistic Editing
  • Rewriting
  • Copy Editing
  • Picture Research
  • Fact Checking / Reference Checking
  • Indexing
  • Mark-Up / Coding
  • Proofreading
  • Mock-Up (Rough Paste-Up)
  • Production Editing
Now, obviously, not every job is in need of all of these skillsets.  But chances are you’re going to need at least some of those skills beyond copy and substantive

My next series is historical horror instead of fantasy. I need someone who can also do fact checking (did that major historical event really happen then?). Because it is aimed at a YA market, I also need someone who can do stylistic editing to make sure I’m writing at the corret reading level.

If you are a self-publishing something (which I may be doing in the near future…) you’re going to need more than that. Just looking at the list, I’m thinking someone who can do mark-up/coding, production editing, mock-up, proofreading…

It’s a lot, but by knowing what you need, you can budget for it and know what to look for in an editor.

But Can’t I Do It Myself?

Short stories? Yes. Novels? No, unless you want it to be bad. Self-published novel? Definitely not. Ever. Unless you want it to suck.

Every author edits their own work, but at for larger projects, you shouldn’t be the only one to do it, because you will miss something.

Case in point: One of my editors, Gabrielle Harbowy, is also a writer. Gabrielle is a professional. She knows her stuff. From her website:
“Gabrielle is an Affiliate member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She edits for publishers including Pyr Books, and is a staff proofreader for Lambda Literary. In addition to her independent editing work, she is also Managing Editor at Dragon Moon Press, where she oversees the submissions and editing processes. She has edited for aspiring and first-time authors, New York Times Bestsellers, and Hugo Award winners. Books she has acquired and/or edited have gone on to be finalists and winners of Bram Stoker awards, Parsecs, and ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year awards.”
Now for the $24,000 question (and if you get the reference, congratulations! You’re old!): Does Gabrielle do all her own editing?


Like any good writer, Gabrielle does edit her own work – substantive and copy and everything else. But, before Gabrielle’s also sends her major works to another editor (either her publisher's editor, or an editor she knows for work that doesn't yet have a publisher). This is because Gabrielle knows that, like every other writer, she is too close to see everything that needs changing.

From those one or two copy-edits that you missed the first time and now can’t see for the life of you to that bit where the guy you killed in the first part of the book is giving a speech in the second, you need someone an outside eye. You NEED an editor.

So How Do I Find an Editor?

Word of mouth is your best best for finding a good editor. Talk to other writers (preferably successful ones) and see if they have an editor they use outside their publisher, and if so, do they take other clients.  Then go research that editor (because Google is here for a reason) and find out if they have the skillset that you need.

How much will it cost me?


Yes, I know, I’m stunningly unhelpful sometimes.

Different editors charge different fees depending on their skillset, experience, and the level of work that’s involved in making your manuscript go from great (which I am sure it is now) to the THAT’S AMAZING!!!

And you want to be amazing, don’t you?

Next Week: Staying Healthy, Because Working Sick Sucks.

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