If you are under the assumption great authors don’t require edits, you are greatly mistaken. Good writing is a team effort. Even Stephen King’s 10% rule suggests a strategy when you finish the first draft. A recommendation that should be adhered to. He explains when you finish writing that you retire the draft and review it in about six weeks. At that time you should clean up your grammar, proofread, and the like. But you’re not finished yet, because there is more, especially if you have a 60,000 to 70,000 word manuscript for a book that you are preparing to publish. That may also include a short story or even a novella. Stephen’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft , is a must-read. It’s also a very funny book as Stephen relates and weaves personal stories with his sage advice.
The art of editing is essentially the steps to making any manuscript literally worth reading. The editor’s job will make the manuscript more polished, by catching inconsistencies or fact-checking, ensuring that you’re showing rather than telling, and keeping the info dumps to a minimum. The gold standard is the Chicago Manual of Style which is most often used to refine an author’s writings.
The question now is how many edits are required? It depends on how well your first few drafts were cleaned up by removing filler words and using active verbs whenever possible.
In my case, there were seven bound manuscripts with 426 pages which were edited by spellcheck In Microsoft Word and by Grammarly before the manuscript was sent to the editor. Even then more editing took place directly on Word bypassing any more printing and saving paper.
In approximately two weeks my editor from the publishing company sent me the Editor’s Manuscript Evaluation. This document started with a summary of the story followed by opening comments, then the strengths and potential areas of improvement. This included editorializing or over-explaining, line breaks, pacing and dialogue. The editor mentioned punctuation, spelling grammar, and formatting. Also pointed out was knowing what to italicize and what not to as it could be tricky.
The editor’s recommendation was Content Editing accompanied by Complex Copy Editing.
The focus of Copy Editing is to improve the draft by correcting errors in grammar usage, spelling, punctuation, and the elements of style, internal consistency, cross-referencing, labeling, syntax, abbreviation errors, and verification of passages in the manuscript. This Copy Editing safeguards that the content is consistent, accurate, and clear, sentence by sentence with an overall objective of improvement.
Moving onto Complex Copy Editing would address a manuscript that needs extensive syntax changes in order to improve readability. In my case, it was recommended to polish the text because there was a lot of fact-checking required for the Asian content and it was a big task to “get it right”.
To get the best you can from your book manuscript or text consider Developmental Editing as the editor contributes, makes remarks, and gives guidance on content evaluation and direction of the manuscript. To improve the text even further consider Contact Editing as well because it examines the writing on a deeper basis by clarifying meaning, removing redundant words or jargon, and improving vocabulary usage.
Finally, the back cover copy is equally important to address as it’s usually the back cover that closes the sale. A compelling copy that is aimed at your audience to pick up the book and plunge in for an entertaining read.
An error-free, edited text, excluding formatting errors, that follows the Chicago Manual of Style’s architecture is absolutely going to attract a group of loyal readers.
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