In my view, every writer needs an editor, but if you're going to hire a freelance editor, choose wisely! A good editor will coach a writer through his/her manuscript and book proposal, while offering advice, insights, and viewpoints—as well as different levels of editing—that will strengthen and polish a manuscript.
I've seen a number of manuscripts that have good potential; however, potential will not create the interest needed from a publishing house. No matter how good the writing may be, a seasoned editor can put the "spit and polish" on the writing and increase the "wow" factor.
- A word of caution: When working with an editor, the writer should make sure his/her voice and writing style is maintained throughout the manuscript. Be aware of editors who want to take over your work and make it their own.
You said ‘different levels of editing.’ What is the difference between substantive editing, copy editing, and proof reading? Why are these important for a writer?
It is important to know the various levels of editing so the writer can make the best decision about what his/her manuscript needs. The most common types of editing are:
- Developmental / Project Editing – This is what I call "big picture" editing. It entails coordinating and editing a manuscript from rough to finished project, and can include developing and editing the book proposal. The writer works with the editor every step of the way, but the editor is the lead person.
- Substantive or Structural Editing – In my experience, this is the most common type of editing needed. It involves clarifying thought, sentence and paragraph structure, and can involve reorganizing a manuscript for flow and structure.
- Stylistic or Line Editing – An editor goes the manuscript, line by line, to correct/eliminate/clarify word meaning and language, and create or redesign tables, graphs, etc.
- Rewriting – A rewrite is needed if the entire manuscript is written poorly. The editor will actually rewrite and/or reorganize the manuscript based on content and research from the author. The editor may also add original content where needed to fully develop the project.
- Copy Editing – Among their tasks, the editor will correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and other mechanics; check for style consistency (i.e. make sure all pronouns for God are either lower or upper case—he, He, his, His—depending on author /publishing house preference); check for correct heading style and placement; format quotes and citations correctly; and make sure all permissions have been granted.
- Proofreading – A proofreader is the final "eyes" for the manuscript. The proofreader reads through the galley proofs (a manuscript printed out in one long column or laid out in book form) and corrects errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and other mechanics. All final changes requested by the author are considered; page references, tables, art work, and other details are checked for correct placement; page breaks, run on sentences, widow-orphan words are corrected; all other details pertinent to the final printing of the book are also checked and corrected where necessary.
One of the courses that you’ve developed is a 12-week course title “What to Do with Your Idea of a Book.” What key advice would you give someone who believes they have a great idea for a book?
If the writer is still in the idea stage, I would suggest taking an objective look at his/her writing skills. A high school English class is not enough to base a book on. If the writer does not understand structure for either fiction or nonfiction, then I'd suggest taking a solid writing course (I can recommend a couple of excellent ones).
If the writer understands the nuts and bolts of writing, he/she should decide if they are a "pantser" or an "outliner." A pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants and develops their manuscript as they write. An outliner is someone who creates an outline for their manuscript before starting to write, including an overall synopsis, chapters and a synopsis for each, character arcs, and plot development, if writing a novel.
God is the greatest of all writers and he has written the world's best seller—the Bible! Read God's word for style and technique while studying it for content and personal growth. If he has called you to write or edit, then it's also imperative to read and study writing in all genres. Go through the doors that God opens for you—paid or unpaid—and continue to learn and grow your craft. Take Proverbs 3:5-6 to heart and watch what God will do for you!
Simon was interviewed by Fred Ash, Co-lead of the Write! Canada PR team.