My editing philosophy is that it’s your name on the cover. It’s not the editor’s job to change your writing, but rather to catch the errors and perhaps find ways to strengthen your prose.
For a style guide, I work with the Chicago Manual of Style. But a style guide is not the law, and most of the “rules” cited casually in writing forums are really just suggestions. I follow your lead and strengthen what you’re already doing.
There are no hard lines to draw between the different types of editing. It’s all of a piece (which is this page is titled simply Editing ). Just how much of what kind of editing I do depends upon what you’re looking for and what you need.
Some people call this line editing, but the definitions of the two terms blur when you ask different editors, so I’ll keep it simple here and call it copyediting.
Most people agree that copyediting includes cleaning up grammar and typos, looking for consistency in spellings, hyphenated phrases, capitalizations, that kind of thing. Beyond that, I follow your lead and strengthen your style, work for consistency of voice, but how much I do varies. Before I start, we’ll discuss what you’re looking for.
I typically do two passes. What you get at the end is the manuscript document in Microsoft Word format with track changes enabled, which shows you everything I did. I may insert comments here and there to explain a suggestion or alert you to a potential problem.
I also will create a stylesheet that documents some of the stylistic conventions followed in the manuscript. (If you already have a stylesheet from a previous edit or the editor of another book, please do share it with me. We don’t want to be spending time and money reinventing the wheel.
I evaluate your manuscript before starting and give you a fixed bid based on your word count and how much editing work I’ll need to do.
Copyediting starts at 1.5¢/word—which works out to $5.00/page. (I go by the industry standard of 250 words per page.)
In substantive editing, I start with the big-picture perspective, looking at character development, story structure, main tension, emotional engagement, world building, continuity, themes, writing style, and so on. From there, I go chapter by chapter through the manuscript, suggesting edits and providing detailed notes.
This is the most hands-on intensive editing I do. What I focus on includes:
- Dramatic tension. Does the story have a rhythm that builds reader anticipation?
- Character development. Often a problematic area of the story can be because a piece is missing or underdeveloped in the character wants and needs.
- World building. This applies especially in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction.
- Story structure.
- Scenes / chapters / sequences that aren’t working and deflate the main tension, block the plot, sidetrack the focus.
- Complementary story lines and subplots, and how effectively they interweave with main story.
- Continuity. She had red hair on page 12, but it’s blonde two hours later on page 26. What happened to the knife he put in his pocket?
- Light fact checking. Did that model radio exist in that year?
- Does the ending work?
- Missed opportunities.
- Opportunities to cut.
Substantive editing starts at 4¢/word ($10/page).
Most editing projects tend to fall somewhere between copyediting and substantive editing. We decide together how deep you would like me to go, and I work up a fixed bid from that.
I want you to feel comfortable with the work I do, so all editing projects include some time after it’s done to discuss my notes and your thoughts. For substantive editing, I set aside up to two hours’ time for an 80K-word manuscript (pro rated more or less based on length) for us to discuss any questions you may have and clarify any points of confusion or concern.
Developmental editing is basically substantive editing but without line edits. I stay out at the big-picture level because at this stage, there’s no point marking up the text when large parts of it will be rewritten or even cut. Instead, I write up a detailed analysis of the story in a separate report.
Developmental editing for an 80,000-word novel starts at $1,200. This also includes up to two hours for discussion afterwards.
Manuscript Critique (or “Beta Read Plus”)
Think of this as a beta read plus—with a critical eye and a detailed report from which you can work on a new draft. This entails a much lighter process than editing. In this, I read your story as a reader, and give you my high-level assessment of what’s working, moments of missed opportunity, potential problems for you will want to look at in your next rewrite, questions about your characters. I will also answer 5–10 questions that you have about your manuscript. If you don’t have questions, I will encourage you to work some up. You’ll need to give them to be ahead of time so I can keep them in mind as I read.
Critique runs 8¢/word ($2/page). If the manuscript seems ready for editing and we agree to move forward, I apply half the critique fee toward the editing.
Areas of Specialty
When it comes to copyediting, I do for all kinds of fiction and trade nonfiction material.
For substantive editing, I am the most comfortable in fiction—namely science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, women’s fiction, mystery, and literary fiction.
Stories are my passion, and stories live no richer lives than through words. Words bring color. Phrases beget sound. A paragraph evokes a memory. The clear voice carries us into another world. We understand our world through stories.
I will be forthright with you in advance if I am not all that familiar with your genre. My experience, expertise, and interests congregate around science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, and what the industry calls women’s fiction. Non-fiction areas of experience are culture, the arts, technology, sciences, and history written for the general reader. (Note: While I flag factual errors that leap out at me, fact-checking is not part of my editing services.)
If you think we might be a good fit but you’re still not sure, I do offer a free sample edit of up to around 750 words (three double-spaced pages). Let’s talk!