Jericho Writers
4 Acer Walk , Oxford, OX2 6EX, United Kingdom
UK: +44 (0)345 459 9560
US: +1 (646) 974 9060

Our Articles

What is Copyediting?

What is Copyediting? - A Complete Guide What is copyediting, and why is it a vital part of the writing process? Before I was a traditionally published writer, I thought that you had one editor. I imagined this editor would give me structural feedback, fix all of my spelling and grammar, and ta da! It would all be ready for the printers. I was wrong, very wrong. Editing isn’t one process; it has several levels to it. In traditional publishing you will receive a structural edit from the editor who has commissioned your work, often a line edit, to check every line to make sure that each sentence is as effective as possible, a copyedit, and finally a proofread. But whether you are hoping to be traditionally published or are self-publishing your own work, a copyedit can mean the difference between a good book and a great one. So what is a copyediting and why do you need it? Below you will find information on why a copyedit is so important, how a copyedit differs from proofreading, and exactly what a good copyedit involves. What is Copyediting? Copyediting is a process of revision, which focuses on eliminating grammatical and factual errors, ensuring consistency and improved readability. That sounds straight-forward, yet a copyeditor does more than fix your grammar and dodgy formatting. Yes, they can spot when you’ve written ‘weather’ instead of ‘whether’ and when you’ve accidentally popped an apostrophe for possession in the word its (we’ve all done it!), but they also do so much more. A copyeditor will notice if you are repeating words. They will spot if in one paragraph you’ve spelled your drink as ‘whiskey’ and in the next chapter it’s ‘whisky’; they might even stop you from writing a sentence that is running on without any punctuation whatsoever so that if you tried to read it out loud your face would be turning blue and you would be on the verge of passing out (see what I did there?). Consistency also plays a huge part in the copyediting process. Your copyeditor will scour your manuscript to spot if your character’s eye colours change from a glacial blue in the first chapter to a muddy brown in the thirtieth, and those all-important moments where you’ve slipped from first person to third person, then back again. And then, of course, there’s the dreaded timeline. The word a lot of us flinch at the mere mention of! Yes, your copyeditor will be there, calendar in hand, to tell you that those dates don’t fit correctly with events you have described. So, let’s look at the copyediting process in more detail. What a Copyeditor Does The role of a copyeditor will largely depend on the condition of the manuscript in front of them, where it will be published, and the time/budget available. Their job is to offer revisions of the following key elements: Align title order and apply consistency in fonts and headings sizesCheck and amend spelling and grammar errorsCheck continuity of place/character names Check continuity of character and setting cosmeticsImprove clarity of language, ensuring the narrative runs smoothlyEnsure that the correct captions are with the appropriate photographConfirm citations match the content of the reference sectionHighlight potential legal liability, with a view to keeping you and your manuscript safe from possible legal action against youHighlight overuse of jargonSuggest changes for repetitionRaise discrepancies in the timeline When you receive your copy edits back, for the most part, your copyeditor will correct your manuscript digitally with track changes on so you can see exactly where you have made (often laughable) mistakes; remember that character, Brian? Well, you have called him Brain for most of your manuscript, but look, your wonderful copyeditor has ironed out all those Brains for you. Phew! There are times when your copyeditor will need your input if they are unsure of your meaning, or think rewording a sentence would help make your manuscript run smoothly. They will add a comment on your document to bring this to your attention. It’s considered quite rare by today’s standards, but should they find themselves working on a paper copy you may find that a copyeditor will use copyediting symbols which a proof-reader may use. In this case, the hard copy would be passed to another editor before it comes to you. At this point some of you may be saying - hold on, I thought a copyeditor was a proofreader? Fear not, my friends, I shall explain all… Difference Between Copyediting and Proofreading Remember how I said at the beginning that there are several levels of editing? Well, proofreading is the last one. Once your manuscript has been copyedited, you will now have a revised version of your manuscript. You have agreed/declined their amendments (yes, you can disagree, it is still your book!) it is then time to have a proof-reader examine your work. You may be thinking - why do I need a copyeditor if it then has to be proofread anyway?  As we’ve already discussed, a copyeditor’s job is to not only look at spelling and grammar but offer an in-depth scrutiny of your manuscript. By the time a proof-reader receives a manuscript, it will be an almost finished piece of work; it will have been to typesetting and the pages in front of them (a PDF if it’s a digital copy) will look like the pages in your book. The job of the proof-reader is to correct any errors that have fallen through the net and they will be focusing on the finished product that is about to go to print. A proof-reader will be ensuring that the house style of the publisher is met. For example, you may have written okay, but your publisher’s house style may be OK. They will look at your page numbers, ensure no pages are missing and even check for repetition of words that sit above each other – often referred to as stacking — in the text.   At the proofreading stage, there should be no major changes in the text, just the odd one-word correction or possibly a paragraph if it’s deemed necessary. If there are too many errors, a proof-reader may return the proof and request further copyediting.  In short, a copyedit will contain a vast number of revisions based on the quality of your writing, the content of your story, as well as the layout and any syntax errors. A proof-reader’s corrections are often minimal as they are working on the final draft of your work. They are there to put the icing on the cake, to straighten your tie, to make sure your knickers aren’t tucked into your dress before you leave the house. Why Copyediting is Important Copyediting is an invaluable part of the publication process. Without it, you may be sending out a manuscript where your main character is called Brain not Brian, where your characters have the ability to change eye colour at any given time in your novel, and where a year in your work may actually be fourteen months long. You may think your manuscript is ready to be published without a copyeditor, but even the most established and experienced writers make mistakes. Copyeditors are the quality gatekeepers of the publishing world and may well hold the keys to your success. How Long does Copyediting Take? Writers by and large are an impatient bunch, so how long will you have to wait to have your work copyedited? For a fairly clean manuscript by a professional author, a copy editor will read approximately 1500 words an hour. For a less experienced writer on average it would take 1000-1250 words an hour. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, all reputable copyediting services will be able to provide a quote and an expected delivery date. Do I Need a Copyeditor? Whether you are self-publishing or hoping to be traditionally published, copyediting is a vital part of the publishing process. Without it, the quality of your work may suffer and the wonderful story you are telling may be put aside in favour of the enigmatic blue-eyed Brian whose exciting story unfolds over the course of just one year... not a year and two months. As my own work is currently off to be copyedited, I would like to thank copyeditors everywhere; you are my heroes, and Brian and I are forever in your debt. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
Read more

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book? As a writer, your passion is your writing—you care about getting your ideas out there. But as you near the end of your writing process, the question of publishing costs pops up with all the tact of an uninvited party guest. Suddenly, there are decisions to make—important ones, and they can be daunting. How much is this really going to cost? How do I know if this quote is reasonable? Do I really need this service? The temptation to ignore the business side can be strong, but don’t give in. Your book’s success depends on you giving it a solid business foundation, and that starts with a sane budget. After reading this article, you’ll feel confident creating a budget for your book. You’ll know which factors affect prices, how much you should expect to pay for each service, and a reasonable ballpark for your total budget. Book Publication Costs A budget is more than just a list of prices—it’s about priorities. This article will familiarise you with what various services cost. Allocating your money wisely and planning your launch are topics of their own, and you can read about them here: How to Self-Publish Your Book on Amazon KDPHow Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?Literary Agent Fees Meanwhile, if what you’re really interested in is traditional publishing, you’ll want to read How to Get Your Book Published in 2021. And if you’re not sure of which route to take, Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing is the article for you. Still here, and still ready to talk prices? Let’s go! Production Costs Almost all publishing budgets include editing, layout, cover design, and ISBNs. For certain non-fiction books, indexing will also be a significant expense. What do each of these services cost? How are the fees typically structured, and which factors influence the final price? Let’s take a look at each one in detail. Book Editing Costs and Proofreading Costs For most self-published books, the biggest non-marketing cost is editing, accounting for around half the production budget. And rightfully so! Ask any successful author and they’ll tell you: never skimp on editing. Even if you’re a professional editor yourself, there’s no substitute for the perspective of a trained professional who lives outside your head. What Influences Editing Costs? The length of the manuscript. (You want them to check every word, right?)The difficulty of the manuscript. If you’re the type of writer who can weave a great yarn, but is a little “loose” with their text, your editor may charge a higher rate. Meanwhile, technical non-fiction content will require a specialist editor, also at a higher rate.The depth of the edit. Editing that reviews elements of style (phrasing, tone, word choice) is more costly than editing strictly for correctness (grammar, spelling, typos). The experience of your editor. An experienced editor won’t necessarily catch more mistakes, but they will have established work habits that allow them to be more efficient, reliable, and consistent. How Do Editors Structure Their Fees? There are two common fee structures: per-length or per-time. In a per-length scheme, the editor quotes a guaranteed cost based on the number of words or pages in your manuscript. In a per-time scheme, the editor quotes an hourly rate, and usually provides an estimate of the number of hours required. Per-length rates are more common in the modern self-publishing community, probably because they provide cost certainty to the author. However, there’s nothing wrong with a per-hour rate. If your editor can provide a reliable estimate of the time your edit will require, it boils down to almost the same thing. A Note on Terminology: Editing terms can be confusing because they vary between countries and between writing communities. Is it a copy edit, or a line edit? A line edit, or a stylistic edit? When requesting quotes, it’s best to specify the scope of editing you need, instead of assuming a common vocabulary. For example, you might ask for an editor to correct “grammar, spelling, and typos, but not matters of style or flow”. (If an editor’s website gives you their definition of terms, you can safely use those.) What Does Editing Actually Cost? Here are typical ranges, using all three price structures, in US dollars: Type of editPer-wordPer-page (300w)Per-hourStyle + correctness$0.015-$0.020/word$4.50-$6.00/page$15-20/hrCorrectness only$0.010-$0.012/word$3.00-$3.60/page$10-12/hr The lower end of this range would be for a less experienced editor and a less difficult manuscript; the higher end would be for the opposite. A Note on Structural / Developmental Edits: The editing we’ve described here is what’s sometimes referred to as final edits, meaning that you’ve finished making structural changes to your manuscript, and are now focused strictly on making the text the best it can be. There’s an entirely separate service known as “structural editing” or “developmental editing”, whose purpose is to make higher-level suggestions about your manuscript, such as restructuring chapters or cutting or adding content. If you plan to pay for a structural edit, make sure you budget for it separately from final edits. Book Formatting Costs With a number of do-it-yourself layout tools available, it’s tempting to try this step yourself. However, book layout is about more than just “converting” a manuscript into PDF or EPUB format. The wrong choice of font, font size, line spacing, or margins will reduce readability and cause reading fatigue. Unresolved widows, orphans, and rivers will distract the reader. If your book also contains tables, images, footnotes, or other rich content, the decisions are multiplied. What a designer offers is the judgment and best practices to make those decisions correctly. This is why, for most books, the right choice is to hire a professional. Fortunately, layout is often one of the less costly services you’ll need. What Influences the Cost of Layout? The formats you’re publishing in. An e-book layout is an entirely different thing than a print layout. If you publish in two print formats (e.g. hardcover and paperback), those may require separate layouts as well.The length of the manuscript. Sometimes this is only considered if it exceeds a certain threshold, such as 100,000 words.The complexity of the content. A novel is usually composed of what’s called running text—simple paragraphs. Meanwhile, a textbook or recipe book would include diverse elements, such as footnotes, tables, images, captions, headings, and so forth. How Are Fees Structured? For a running-text book, it’s common to see a single, fixed price. For books with more complex content, expect a custom quote. You may be asked to fill out a form identifying the number of images, tables, footnotes, and so on; or the designer may ask to review your manuscript. What does it cost? Here are some typical costs in US dollars: Running text, one format (e-book or print): $300-500.Running text with some images or diagrams (memoir or simple how-to book): $500-1000.Rich content (recipe book, textbook, technical how-to): $1500-2000 or more.Multiple formats: For one print and one digital format, expect to pay a bit less than the sum of the individual prices. For multiple print formats, there may be larger discounts. (Always let your designer know all the formats you’re considering.) Book Cover Design Costs Your cover is the centerpiece of your marketing; as with editing, this is an area where you shouldn’t skimp. A good cover designer doesn’t just create an image, they also give you valuable insight into the visual language of your genre or category. Book cover design costs vary considerably, and represent much more than just the technical quality of the final image. Careful research is essential. What Influences Book Cover Design Costs? The source of the content on which the design is based. Licensing fees for a stock photo may be as little as $20, while the cost of an original photo shoot can easily exceed $1000. In both cases, the final cover would be based on a photo, but the creative flexibility and licensing restrictions would be different.The labor-intensity of the work. The more detailed a cover is, or the more precisely some part of it must be executed, the more it will cost.The depth of the design consultation. This ranges from no process at all (buying a pre-made cover) to multiple drafts and revisions plus audience testing. How Are Fees Structured? Many designers offer packages at fixed prices, in exchange for limiting the design parameters. For example, it’s common to see a package in the $400US range that offers a cover based on a stock photo, with one or two rounds of revision. These package prices give both you and the designer a degree of certainty. Other designers, meanwhile, operate on a more open-ended process. They’ll provide a quote after receiving a brief or discussing your project with you. The quoting process itself takes time and effort, so this is uncommon at lower price ranges. A Note About Add-Ons: When dealing with package prices, you’ll often see “extras” included, such as a 3D render of your book, pre-made ad banners, or the source files for the design. Don’t compare packages based on a bullet list of “items” you’re getting—instead, focus on the design process and the designer’s skills and experience. (If you need specific extras, just ask for them.) What Does a Book Cover Design Cost? Keeping in mind that there’s a wide variation, here are some reasonable benchmarks: $400-600US is a typical price for a cover based on a stock photo, using a more “assembly line” design process. This price is typically a sweet spot for first-time authors who need a cover that conveys a sense of quality, but are on a tight budget.$500-800US is a typical range for an established designer using a more interactive process, but without any original illustration or photography.$800-1500+US is common for in-depth design processes, veteran designers, and covers that incorporate original illustration.For a print cover, expect $50-100 more compared to the e-book cover price. (This is for layout of the spine and back cover, plus meeting the printer’s specifications.) For both formats together, the price should be only slightly more than the print format on its own. Don’t Forget Genre... Every genre or category has certain conventions for cover design, and this can tie your hands with regard to some costs. For example, a space opera cover will typically be illustrated (where are you going to get a real-life photo of an alien planet?). That illustration will cost more than licensing a stock photo for a steamy romance cover. Book Indexing Costs If you’re publishing a non-fiction book in print, you may need indexing. (E-books are searchable, so are not normally indexed.) If you do need indexing, expect it to be a significant part of your total budget. What Influences the Cost? Length of the book, measured by the number of “indexable pages” (any page with text that needs to be indexed).Density of index entries (number per page).Difficulty of the text (degree of technicality or specialization). How Are Fees Structured? The most common model is a fixed cost per indexable page. However, some indexers may charge per index entry, per hour, or even a flat rate per book. What Does Book Indexing Cost? Generally, from $2.50-6.00US per indexable page. The low end would apply to the least dense and least technical books, such as business, political, popular science, and memoir. The high end would apply to the most dense and most technical books, such as textbooks, academic books, and technical manuals. ISBN Number Costs An ISBN is a stock-keeping number used by retailers to track inventory and/or sales. (It’s not a license to sell, and doesn’t affect your copyrights.) Although not strictly obligatory, the world’s book distribution infrastructure is built around ISBNs, so serious authors always use them. Each country has one national agency that manages ISBNs—sometimes this is the government, and sometimes this is a private entity that has been granted a monopoly, so prices vary. You need a separate ISBN for each format of your book. Below are some sample costs: CountryISBN agencySingle ISBN10-packUKNielsen£89£164USABowker$125 US$295 USCanadaCanadian governmentFreeFree A Note About “Free” ISBNs From Distributors: Some distributors or retailers offer “free” ISBNs as part of their service. However, these come with limitations. Typically you won’t be listed as the publisher in the ISBN registry, which can look unprofessional. And you’re usually not allowed to “take the ISBN with you” if you stop using that distributor or retailer. (This doesn’t affect your copyrights, but it can create a huge administrative hassle.) We recommend you buy your own ISBNs. A Note About Barcodes: When you buy ISBNs, you may be offered barcodes as well. A barcode is a way of representing your ISBN so a scanner can read it—you’ll see them on the back of every book.This is generally not something you need to pay for. If you’re using a mainstream print-on-demand service, such as IngramSpark, your barcode is automatically generated for you. If you need barcodes in other situations, there are free barcode generators on the web that you can use. All-in-One Packages The appeal of an all-in-one package is that it removes the entire process of comparing quotes from multiple contractors… and the risk is that it removes the entire process of comparing quotes from multiple contractors. Package Deals Commonly Come in Two Flavours: An “assembly line” package is focused on reducing your costs. It achieves this by streamlining the administration that would be duplicated across services, and through pre-existing relationships with specific contractors. You can save money this way, but watch out for unneeded services, and expect a more cookie-cutter result than you might get from hand-picked professionals.A “project management” package is focused on integrating the whole project under a consistent vision, selecting professionals suited to your project, and providing you with advice to make smart publishing decisions. With this approach, you pay more money than doing it yourself—in exchange for consistency, convenience, and advice.  When looking at costs, refer to the benchmarks for total costs later in this article. Expect an “assembly line” package to cost less than our benchmark, and a “project management” package to cost more. In all cases, investigate package deals carefully—remember you’re effectively making several hiring decisions at once. Book Marketing Costs Marketing is Different From Production in Important Ways: Production is a one-time expense to create a product. Marketing is an ongoing process, with no limit to total spending.Certain production tasks apply to almost every book (editing, cover design), while marketing plans are unique to each title.Production is about achieving quality and suitability while controlling costs. Marketing is about experimentation, and focuses on return on investment. Unfortunately, This Means There’s No “Average” Cost for Book Marketing. However, Here Are Some Useful Benchmarks:  “Deal” newsletters are a tried-and-tested promotional method, and there are effective options at prices from $20 to $1000. Remember to compare cost and audience size.Editorial review services can provide you with credible, positive marketing quotes for $200-400.Many authors achieve positive return with Amazon ads and/or Facebook ads. These systems are too complex to describe here, but as a rule, at least $100 (preferably more) is needed to properly test per-click ads for your book.Your author portrait is a useful marketing asset and can boost your credibility. $200 is a reasonable investment for a professional portrait that will last you several years.When you’re starting out, it’s safe to DIY your author website. Keep it simple, include links to your books and your social media channels, and revisit it over time.NetGalley is a service for generating buzz, media, and reviews. Although very useful for books with a larger marketing budget, it needs to work in conjunction with other efforts, so it should never take up the majority of your marketing budget. Costs range from $450-850US for a listing.Copywriting for your book description and marketing text provides a high return on investment. For as little as $50 you can obtain a strong marketing text that will generate a much better response than something self-written. As Far As How Marketing Fits Into Your Overall Budget, Again, Every Book is Unique. But Here Are a Few Rules of Thumb to Follow: A $0 marketing budget is almost always a mistake. At minimum, include $100 for inexpensive options.For a book with a budget of $2000 or less, allocating a quarter of your budget to marketing is reasonable.As your budget rises, the fraction allocated to marketing should also rise. For budgets $2000-$10,000, about a third of your total budget for marketing is reasonable. Above $10,000, most of each new dollar should go to marketing rather than production, as you should already have a top-quality product. Average Cost to Publish a Book So, with everything taken into account, what does it cost to publish a book? It should be clear by now that this question doesn’t have a single answer, and it would be unhelpful if we simply gave a range without any context. Instead, here are three sample budgets, each with a breakdown of costs: Example #1: Romance Novel. E-book and Paperback; 60,000 words. Editing for correctness and style: $0.02/w = $1200Book layout, e-book and paperback, running text only: $550Cover design based on stock photo: $400Total $2150 + ISBNs + marketing. Example #2: Epic Space Opera Novel. E-Book Only; 120,000 words. Editing for correctness and style: $2400Book layout, e-book only, running text only, extra cost for length: $320Cover design based on original illustration: $800Total $3520 + ISBNs + marketing. Example #3: Academic Text on the History of Steam Engines. Hardcover and Paperback; 85,000 words; Numerous Images, Diagrams, Tables, and Footnotes. Editing for correctness and style: $0.02/w = $1700.Book layout, hardcover/paperback with same dimensions (one layout), complex content: $2300.Cover design, based on historical photo: $400Indexing: $5.00/page @ 270 indexable pages = $1350.Total $5750 + ISBNs + marketing. As a general rule, you would rarely spend more than $5000 to produce a novel, and only the most complex non-fiction would exceed $15,000. At the low end, spending less than $1200-1500 on book production likely means you’re cutting corners. There are exceptions to every rule, so always base your decisions on an analysis of what your book needs to succeed. Compare with other authors wherever possible; budgeting and planning your book can be daunting, so why navigate these waters alone? Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
Read more

Proofreading Marks: What Do They Mean?

As a new author, there’s nothing more important than a properly edited piece of writing. It can make or break your submissions, and editors on any level, for any project, will no doubt have notes to give you! While many writers use the Track Changes function on Word, or apps that can add changes or allow for suggestions from editors, there are still some writers opting for old-school hand-written edits. But why do proofreaders use all sorts of symbols and silly markings to edit your work? More than that, what do all of these marks mean? These unusual red scribbles are a necessary evil when it comes to your work being edited, and they can mean a variety of things. Let’s go over what proofreading marks are, and how you can best decipher them before your next big round of edits. What are Proofreading Marks? These special signs and symbols relate to sections of your work that need editing or adjusting. This can range from spelling errors to grammatical errors to formatting preferences. These forms of corrections may be less frequently found these days, due to the progression of “track changes” and “suggestions” in many word processing applications. However, some of the symbols are widely used so every writer should familiarise themselves appropriately. It\'s also worth noting that some editors that have their own special characters too - so it\'s important to reach out to your proofreader should you not understand their corrections. How might these marks be used, and what are some marks that have been universally accepted by editors and proofreaders? Let’s go over these now... How Proofreading Marks are Used Proofreading marks are used by editors to point out changes that need making in your document. They are typically located in the right and left margins of a printed document with pointers to where in the text changes are recommended. Both copy editing symbols and abbreviations will be found along your margins or in your text and various sentences, and they can mean anything from improper sentence spacing to transposing your sentence in an entirely different way for clarity.  You will have slashes through words (which means please remove) and abbreviations for formatting changes (such as italics and bold). You will encounter odd squiggles (often meaning “delete” or “transpose”), and your proofreader may even rewrite whole sentences in your margins. Yes, proofreading marks can be overwhelming, especially if you weren’t expecting so many specific edits! These shorthand symbols took me a while to learn and were more complicated than I expected them to be, so be patient with yourself. Once you\'ve gone through multiple rounds of edits with the same proofreader you\'ll soon get the hang of it. What are the Common Proofreading Symbols? Here\'s a comprehensive list of proofreading marks. Note that there are two types - abstract symbols and abbreviations. ^   - Insert something, most likely an edit found in your marginsㄉ - Delete this word or section; usually this symbol will appear in the margins of your work while there will be a diagonal or straight line through the specific word, letter, or sentence that needs deleting[  - Move your writing left]  - Move your writing right] [  - Center your text#  - Add spaceeq#  - Make the spacing equalbf  - Bold a section of textItal  - Italicise a section of text(/) - Insert some parentheses[/] - Insert some brackets=  - Insert a hyphen;/ - Insert a semicolon! - Insert an exclamation point? - Insert a question mark~  - Transpose (meaning rewrite the sentence, usually)❡  - Begin a new paragraphfl  - Flush left, or align the text with the left marginfr  - Flush right, or align the text with the right marginAWK  - Something about a particular phrase or sentence is worded awkwardly or strangelyWW  - This refers to “wrong word”, such as using the wrong form of “there”WDY  - A particular sentence is most likely too wordy, complicated, or overstated This is only the beginning of the many possible symbols and proofreaders’ abbreviations. Communicate with your proofreader so you don’t misunderstand any specific symbols. You may also wish to refer to a professional proofreading mark guide, such as this helpful list. How to use Proofreading Marks While they may seem daunting and sometimes discouraging, these corrections are necessary for writers at any stage. No matter how many copy-editing marks you receive, know that you are on track to make your work the best it can be, with the help of a skilled proofreader! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.  If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
Read more

How To Revise A First Draft

A checklist for your novel or manuscript rewriting process In this blog post, pro novelist and writing tutor, Emma Darwin (full bio below) gives you her advice on how to revise a first draft of your writing. So you’ve written your first draft novel (or other manuscript). That’s great. Congratulations. It’s a big moment. But now you need to make sure that your novel draft works on other readers as you want it to. Maybe you’ve just about managed to tame your novel, but now you’re facing A Big Revision or Rewriting of your first draft – so where on earth do you start? Before you edit, revise or rewrite anything, here are some pointers. Step 1: Read Through Your Book First, I suggest, you need to do your own appraisal, trying to read your first draft novel straight through, and as much like a reader as you can. I call this “problem-finding”, and by far the best way to do this it on paper, with a pen in your hand. Using track-changes and comment balloons on screen is a poor second, but possible; either way, you’re trying to record your reactions, as a reader, to the story, not start problem-solving: that comes later. Also note any wider thoughts that this reading throws up, but don’t then just dive into the most urgent or least frightening job. Because so many decisions and changes will affect all sorts of other things, it’s terribly easy to lose track, get diverted, lapse into fiddling and tinkering, and generally get into a worse muddle than you started in. Step Two: Organise Your Thoughts So, first bring all the different feedback you’ve had together, make an enormous pot of coffee or your working-drink of choice, and start sorting it out into rough categories. Problems that run all through the story: the order you’re telling the story in doesn’t work; a character is cardboard, or vanishes, a lost-letter plot’s in a muddle; the narrative voice is dull.Problems with particular sections: a saggy middle; that scene where the dialogue is flat as a pancake; the too-confusing opening; the crucial but oh-so-difficult sex, or battle, scene.Problems of continuity and consistency, such as paragraphing, how dialogue is punctuated, or how you represent dialect.What I call “bits”: individual corrections and tweaks, from typos, to one-off clunky paragraphs, to missing research. Once you have the overall picture, you can sort it out into a to-do list, and decide on the order to tackle your rewrite. The temptation here is to plunge straight into the revision process . . . but you need to resist that. Before you start to edit, revise and rewrite like crazy, you have a little more organising to do. Step 3: Work From Big To Small One possibility is to look at p.1, do everything it needs, then move on p.2, but that’s probably not the best way to tackle it. As with totally renovating a house (only this one you don’t have to live in at the same time), it’s not wise to do the whole of one room, from damp-course to top-coat, before you start the next. You neeed to make sure the structure is solid and the roof waterproof, only then get the electrician in to move lights and install heating, and only when all that’s done, do you paint the walls and lay carpets. Whichever order you do things in, any major change probably has ramifications elsewhere. Get into the habit of not galloping off to follow up now, but make a note on your To Do list to tackle it at a logical point. And although every writer is different, this I suggest, would be a good order in which to tackle things: Big structural changes. Don’t worry about the close-detail of stitching the sections into their new places, just do the rough carpentry.Any all-through-the-story things which need shrinking, changing or enhancing.Individual work on scenes and sections, now that they’re all in the (probably) right place.Consistency and continuity things which are most easily done when you put on the right glasses and deal with that issue all together: a character’s taste in clothes, say, or the punctuation and paragraphing of dialogue.Just work through from the beginning of your manuscript, and any other mark-up by your readers. Step Four: Work In Layers As much as you possibly can, tackle any particular problem working forwards in the story, so that you stay in touch with how the reader reads. It’s super-important for plots which depend on who-knows-what, about what, when. But it also matters for things like characterisation and setting, because the reader is encountering this person or place in stages, through time: make sure you’re in control of how that knowledge develops. If it helps you, work through the novel focusing on just one layer: Aunt Anita’s character arc, let’s say, or the way you build a picture of 1940s Manhattan. Ignore anything else (good or bad) if it doesn’t pertain to those exact issues. I know it feels inefficient to “go through the book” so many times, but believe me, you save far more trouble than you spend, because you don’t get in a muddle, duplicate work or cause muddles elsewhere without realising. Step 5: Re-read The Entire Text If you follow the advice above, you’ll have far less work to do once you get to the last stage: Do another straight read-through-like-a-reader, in print or on screen. Use this to pick up any darning-in of the big structural changes that’s still needed, and anything else you might have missed. This also is a very good moment to read it aloud, pen in hand, if you haven’t already: it’s brilliant for picking up typos, and more generally getting outside the novel to read it as if you didn’t write it. Just have a big jug of water to hand. Step 6: Stay Positive If all this sounds as if it’s more work than writing the first draft was – you’d be right. All authors know that writing is rewriting. Revising the first draft of a novel isn’t easy. True, some rewrite each page or even line, until it’s perfect, then move on, while others hurl a whole first draft down on the page, spelling-mistakes and all, and only then go back and start to hammer it into shape. Still, most would say that they spend perhaps three or four times as long on that rewriting of a page or novel as they did on putting the first version of those words on paper. Guest Post By: Emma Darwin Emma Darwin’s debut novel was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Book and the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year awards, and she is the author of Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction. Her blog is used for writing courses around the world. For more on these and a host of other writerly topics, click through to resources via my blog.
Read more

The Rewriter’s Journey by John David Mann

In this rewriting and editing guide John David Mann shares his experiences editing and rewriting his first novel, Steel Fear (2020). When I handed my wife my five-hundred-page, hundred-fifty-thousand-word completed draft of my first novel, she did three things. She read it. She told me she loved it. And then she gave me the best advice I’ve had in a decade: “Send it to Jericho.” Context This wasn’t my maiden voyage. I first learned about the value of rewriting your story—the agony and ecstasy of rewriting, its trials and rewards—more than a decade earlier. Back in 2005 I coauthored a little “business parable” with a friend and managed to secure us a terrific literary agent, who in 2006 sent it round to a handful of publishers in New York and got the following responses: Editor 1 at Publisher A said no. Editor 2 at Publisher B said no. Editor 3 at Publisher C said no. Editor 4 at Publisher D said no. Editor 5 at Publisher E said no. Editor 6 at Publisher F said no. Editor 7 at Publisher G said no. Editor 8 at Publisher H said, “This one was pretty interesting. The writing is good, but the payoff was a bit lacking.” In other words…no. So we took the manuscript back, spent months reworking it, and then in 2007 sent it round to publishers yet again. This time, some of those same editors from 2006 responded, as did a few different editors at some of those publishers, as well as some altogether new editors from entirely different publishers. Here’s what they all said: Editor 9 at Publisher A (Editor 1’s publisher) said no. Editor 10 at Publisher B (Editor 2’s publisher) said no. Editor 11 at Publisher I said no. Editor 12 at Publisher J said no. Editor 13 at Publisher K said no. Editor 14 at Publisher L said no. Editor 15 at Publisher M said, “Starts out with a bang but loses steam in the middle.” That’s a no. Editor 16 at Publisher N said, “Liked it, but not quite right for our imprint and the direction we are going in this year.” Nyet. Editor 17 at Publisher O passed to Editor 18. Who said, “Like it, but couldn’t get other team members enthusiastic about it.” Nein danke. Editor 4 (back at Publisher D) who’d said no on the first try, said, “It’s very well done, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that will work well on our business list.” En-Oh. Editor 5 (back at Publisher E) read the new version and said, “Needs a unique hook or punchline to get people to respond. Writing is great but payoff not strong enough.” Fuggedaboudit. Editor 6 (still at Publisher F) said, “Saw this twice now. Liked it, but didn’t love it. While I like the message a lot, the story itself seemed a little more didactic and forced than we would like.” Amscray. Editor 7 (back at Publisher G) said, “Liked it. Wanted to love it, but I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with it. I’ve been incredibly wrong before and probably am on this one, but I’m going to have to pass, with regret.” Don’t let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha. Editor 19 at Publisher H, the same house where Editor 8 had said “This one was pretty interesting but the payoff was lacking” the previous year, said— Wait, what? He said “yes.” The Moral Of The Story We published THE GO-GIVER in early 2008. It hit some lists, won some awards, and to date has sold nearly a million copies in more than two dozen languages. But the moral of the story isn’t what you might think. You’ve heard the stories about persistence— J K Rowling turned down by a dozen publishers. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and their goofy idea for a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul turned down by 144 publishers. Harlan Sanders and his recipe for fried chicken rejected more than a thousand times. And so on. The moral is, persist! Believe in yourself! Don’t listen to the naysayers—keep knocking on those doors! Right? Yeah…but. Those first eight editors were right to reject our book. To this day I thank my lucky stars they all said “no.” Because if even one of them had said “yes” and we’d published the book back in 2006, it would not have sold a million copies. Maybe a thousand. Or not. Because it wasn’t ready. Those eight editors knew something we didn’t know. And that, that, is to me the moral of the story. Yes, believe in yourself, believe in your idea, trust that your story is the most fantastic and amazing and compelling story that has come around in years, that the world needs and wants your story. Have unshakable faith in yourself. But keep one ear open. Maybe both ears. Because there are people who know things you don’t know. And if you want your idea to become all it can be, all it should be, all it was born to be, then you need to hear those things you don’t yet know. Hear them, and act on them. During those months of reworking that original manuscript, our agent first covered every page with red ink, and I then spent dozens of hours rephrasing, simplifying, compressing, and deleting. Changed one character’s gender. Cut a few other characters altogether. Remember that comment about how “the payoff was a bit lacking”? Right: we tossed out the entire last chapter and wrote a brand new one. And it became the book it was meant to be. Which was why Number Nineteen (aka Adrian Zackheim at Portfolio, an imprint at Penguin, now Penguin Random House) said “yes” and launched my career. Fast forward a decade. By 2018 I’d written a bunch more books, some fairly successful, some not so much, but all of them sharing this in common: they were all shelved on the nonfiction side of the bookstore. In June of ’18 I set out to do something that terrified me: write a novel. Harry Bingham is one of my crime-fiction heroes. I’ve loved every word of the Fiona books. I wanted to do something like that. I’ve also come to love Harry’s teaching and coaching. Before starting work on my novel I read his How to Write cover to cover, joined Jericho Writers and watched his video course. Then I started. Steel Fear The story is a thriller called STEEL FEAR, and I cocreated it with a friend, a former Navy SEAL sniper with whom I’ve written before (all nonfiction, till now). He had the basic story idea, supplied technical and background detail, and was a rich source of color and flavor for the world I was building. The actual writing—creating characters, designing the plot, working out the twists and turns, putting flesh and blood and bones on the whole thing, and tapping out one damn word after another—was my job. Here’s the elevator pitch: A disgraced Navy SEAL stalks a serial killer aboard an aircraft carrier in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. It took me about fifteen months, from first research notes and scribbles to first draft. At which point my wife said: “Send it to Jericho.” Understand, this is something I’ve never ever done before: hired a third-party consultant to critique my first draft. I’ve gotten critique-and-review assistance from my agent, from my publishers’ editors, and from the handful of friends who form my early readers’ circle. This was different: a novel. My first. And a thriller, yet. I knew my wife was right. I needed professional help. So in mid-September 2019, I submitted the manuscript to Jericho for a full manuscript assessment. I don’t think it’s too early to say, that one action has changed the trajectory of my career. Jericho paired me up with veteran thriller author Eve Seymour, who turned around a lengthy, comprehensive critique within a shockingly short time. (Weeks, not months.) Eve was most generous in her initial comments, the “What I think is great” part. And then got down to business. Chapter by chapter, page by page, structure, plot, characterization, pacing and tension…she mapped out the entire thing, end to end, from broad-strokes observations to detailed notes. Her critique was fantastic, phenomenal, incisive, spot on. Kind but ruthless. Terrifying. Galvanizing. Motivating. I saw what was lacking, and what was possible. Eve helped me see that the story had major flaws. I’d conceived of it as having more or less three protagonists—and you can see the problem right there in the phrase “more or less.” It was vague. Not a clear three-strand braid, but not a clear one-hero thread either. She prodded me to make a clear choice as to who was the protagonist, and then rework everything to serve that choice. I had way too much backstory. Heaping helpings of unnecessary exposition. The pacing was fantastic toward the end but laborious in the first half. And inconsistent: some scenes zipped along, some dragged or halted the momentum altogether. Plot took way too long to get going. Some subplot threads didn’t really work. And so on. I had a lot of work ahead of me. I spent October through the end of the year completely reworking it, in the process shrinking from 152k words to 129k. On New Year’s Day I sent Draft 2 to my agent. Who read it. Told us she loved it. And asked for further cuts and revisions. Her observations ran along exactly the same lines as Eve’s. All I had to do was keep going. Between January and April I went through two more drafts, in the process taking that new 129k word count to 120k, and finally to 103k. (From the original, that’s about one in every three words chopped. Warning: Many, many darlings were murdered in the course of this production.) Deleted a handful of characters, some of whom I’d thought were “indispensable.” Tightened timelines. Shifted critical revelations to earlier. Rewrote all the murder scenes that were originally told from the killer’s POV to now be from the victims’ POV. Eliminated a prologue I’d thought of as brilliant and riveting but which turned out to be neither. And so on. Until, finally, it had become the book it was meant to be. In June we got a handful of offers, took the one from Ballantine Books for a two-book deal. Signed a contract in early August. The first book of the series, STEEL FEAR, will hit the shelves on August 24, 2021. The sequel comes a year later. With, perhaps, more to follow. And here’s the cherry on the sundae: we are presently in discussion with three A-list Hollywood producers, all of whom want to bring our story to the screen. The book has, as they say in Tinsel Town, “buzz.” Once a deal solidifies and we know for sure which horse we’re riding I’ll see if we can append that information to this post. Will the book be a hit? No one knows. Will the screen adaptation really happen? No one knows. But this I know, and know for sure: If we hadn’t gone through all that rewriting, none of those editors in New York would have jumped on it. Not one. And the novel would have ended its days sitting on my shelf. Writing made the story. Rewriting turned it into the story it was meant to be. Essentially, writing is rewriting. No story is perfect the first time it hits the page. So if you want to know how to rewrite your book it\'s just this: listen to feedback, keep your end goal in sight, and get rewriting. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.  If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers’ experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
Read more

Types of Editing: How To Choose

Developmental editing. Structural editing. Line editing. Copy editing. Proofreading. Yes, we know: you’ve written a manuscript. You know it needs some kind of professional help. But what kind of help? Copy editing or line editing? Structural editing or developmental support? There seem to be so many options to choose from. But never fear. We’ll tell you exactly what each of the different types of editing are – and offer some suggestions on what editing you do/don’t need right now. The good news is that, quite often, you need less editorial input than you might think. (The bad news is that you have to put in a lot of hard graft instead…) What Are The Different Types Of Editing? Developmental editing: checks concept, plot coherence, and character development/arc.Structural editing: identifies issues with plot, pacing, characters, settings, themes, writing style.Line editing: looks at details line by line.Copy-editing: is much as above, except with less attention to line-by-line correction of clumsy writing.Proof reading: looks for simple typos or errors in the text. How Editing Works Before we go any further, it’s worth explaining the editorial heirarchy. Essentially you go from large to little, from structural to detailed. So it’s like building a house: you start with foundations, walls and roof. Then you start thinking about doors and windows. Then you start thinking about paints and wallpapers. Last, you go around sweeping up and sorting out any last little snags. The same thing with editing, where the hierarchy runs roughly like this, from big to small: Developmental editing. Is this concept sound? Does my plot cohere? Are these the right characters for this book?Structural editing. Identifying and addressing any number of issues covering (for example) plot, pacing, characters, character development, settings, emotional turning points, themes, writing style and much else.Line editing: this starts to look at the detail. Is each sentence clear? Are there typos? Unwanted repetitions? Minor factual errors?Copy editing: much as above, except there’s less attention to line-by-line correction of clumsy writing.Proof reading: At the proof stage, you generally expect that all the essential work has already been done, so this is really just rushing around the manuscript looking for last bits of lint to pick off and typos to clear away. That’s the overview. Not all manuscripts will go through all of these stages – indeed, if you’re doing a decent job as an author then two or three of these stages are probably redundant. All that said, let’s jump straight into the meat… Developmental Editing We’ll start with the biggest, broadest, most sweeping kind of editing you can get: developmental editing. That’s a type of editing that used to have one meaning, but it’s kind of morphed into two distinct beasts for reasons, I’ll explain in a second. Definition: What Is Developmental Editing? In the good old days, developmental editing used to have one precise meaning. It now has certainly two, and maybe three. A. Developmental Editing – Traditional Definition But we start with the first, core, and most precise definition. To quote the ever-reliable Wikipedia: “A developmental editor may guide an author (or group of authors) in conceiving the topic, planning the overall structure, and developing an outline—and may coach authors in their writing, chapter by chapter.” In other words, any true “editing” took place before the writing. It was a planning and design function, in essence. Because competent authors can probably take care of planning and design perfectly well by themselves, such editing was always relatively rare and, in fiction, very rare. (I’ve authored getting on for twenty books now and have never once had a development edit. I’m damn sure I never will.) B. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism But of course not all authors are perfect and, now and again, publishers have to deal with a manuscript they’ve commissioned, but which turns out to be absolutely dire. Think celebrity memoir of the worst sort. Or a multi-million-selling author who’s long since stopped caring about how he or she writes, because they know the money will roll in anyway. So what to do? Well, the standard solution in trade publishing is to do what is euphemistically called a ‘development edit’. What that actually means is that an editor takes on the role of something akin to a ghostwriter. They rip out everything that’s hopeless and rebuild. I’ve known a Big 5 editor who had done this a couple of times, and he said it was soul-destroying. He didn’t get any bonus for doing the work. He didn’t get a share of fame or royalties. He didn’t go on the chat shows or the book tours. And he was always dancing on eggshells with the Famous Author, because the author in question was very prickly about having his work slighted in any way. Even though the work in question sucked. Great. So that’s the second meaning of a development edit: basically a euphemism designed to disguise what is basically a ghostwriting job. When Is Classic Developmental Editing Right For You? It isn’t. You don’t need it. What you probably need (either now or in due course) is a professional manuscript assessment and possibly some of the add-ons normally associated with developmental editing. But in the classic sense of the term, you just don’t need it. We’ll talk about what you do need right away. Structural Editing, Substantive Editing, Editorial Assessment Right. So I’m not a big fan of developmental editing, but I LOVE the type of editing we’re about to talk about. But first up: definitions. Definitions Structural editing is, strictly speaking, a set of comments on the structure of your work. That will certainly involve plot and pacing. But it may also include comments on character, mood, emotional transitions, dialogue, character arcs, writing style and much more. If you’re being strict about it, structural editing should focus only on structure, but in practice editors tend to comment on anything that, in their view, needs attention. (Which is good. Which is what you want.) Basically, a good structural edit will tell you: What’s working (though they won’t spend too long on this)What’s not working (this is where the report will concentrate all its firepower)How to fix the stuff that isn’t yet right A good report will quite simply cover everything that you most need to know. It’ll do that from the perspective of the market for books as it is now. So the kind of crime novels (say) that could have sold 25 years ago may not be right for the market now. A good editor will know that, and set you on the right lines. Substantive editing is basically the same as structural editing, except that technically it doesn’t have to limit itself to structure alone. But since structural editors don’t in practice confine themselves to structural comments, it’s pretty safe to say that, in practice, the two things are exactly the same. Editorial assessment, or Manuscript assessment. These two things are exactly the same as structural editing. The difference is that an editorial assessment gives you an editorial report, but doesn’t usually also give you a marked-up manuscript as well. Again, in practice, these things blur into each other. Our own core editorial product is, indeed, the manuscript assessment. The main deliverable there is a long, detailed editorial report on your book. That said, a lot of editors will, if it’s useful, also mark-up all or part of your manuscript. Or if they don’t, they may quote so extensively from your work, that it’s kinda the same as if they did. In short, and give or take a few blurry bits on the edges: structural editing = substantive editing = editorial assessment = manuscript assessment Easy, right? Is Structural Editing / Editorial Assessment Right For You? Yes. Almost certainly: yes. Now, to be clear, I own Jericho Writers and if you trot along to buy one of our wonderful manuscript assessments, you’ll make me a teeny-tiny bit richer. So in that sense I’m biased. On the other hand, I just told you not to buy developmental edits, and I’d make myself a LOT richer if I got you to buy one of those things, so I hope I have a little credit in the bank. I’m speaking truth, not salesman yadda. And the reason I like structural editing so much is that: It is and remains the gold-standard way to improve a manuscript. Nothing else has ever come close. I’m not that far away from publishing my twentieth book. (I’m both trad & indie, and I love both channels, in case you’re wondering.) I’m a pretty damn good author. I’ve had very positive reviews in newspapers across the world. My books have sold in a kazillion countries and been adapted for TV. And every single one of my books have had detailed editorial input. And they’ve always, always got better as a result. Always.It makes you better as a writer. You always emerge from these exercises with new skills and new insights. You will apply those to your current manuscript, for sure, but you’ll apply them to the next one too. The more you work with skilled external editors, the more you’ll grow as a writer. (And, I think, as a human too.) So that’s why I think structural editing works so well, and for such a huge variety of manuscripts, genres and authors. When Should You Get Structural Input On Your Work? Well, OK. The businessman in me wants to say, “Get that input right now. Hand over your lovely hard-earned dollars / pounds / shekels / yen, and your soul and career will flourish, my friend.” But that’s not the right answer. The fact is that the right time for editorial input is generally: as late as possible. If you know you have a plot niggle in Part IV, then fix the damn niggle. Fix it as well as you can. Don’t go and pay someone to tell you that you have an issue. That’s dumb. Same thing if your characters feel a bit flat, or your atmosphere is a bit lacking, or whatever else. If you know your book has issues, then do the best you can to fix those issues. You’ll learn a lot and your book will get better. That means, the right time for editorial input comes when: You’ve worked hard, but you keep going round in circles. You’re confusing yourself. You need external eyes and buckets of wisdom.You’ve worked hard, but you know the book isn’t right. You don’t know what’s awry exactly, but you know you need help.You’ve worked hard, you’ve got the book out to agents, but you’re not getting offers of representation. You know you need to do something, but you don’t know what.The self-pub version of 2: you have a draft you’re reasonably happy with, but you’re about to publish this damn thing, and your whole future career depends on the excellence of the story you’re going to serve the reader. So you do the right thing and invest in the product. You’re going to get the best kickass structural edit you can, then use that advice as intensively as you can. (Editing, in fact, is one of the only two things that should cost you real money at this early stage: the other one is cover design. And, no surprise, they both relate to developing the best product it is in your power to produce.) In short: work as hard as you can on the book. When you’re no longer making discernible forward progress, come to an editor. And – blatant plug alert! – Jericho Writers is very, very good at editorial stuff. We’ve got a bazillion people published, trad and indie, and the success stories just keep coming. Developmental Editing – As Premium Manuscript Assessment I love manuscript assessments – I think they’re the single most helpful thing you can do to improve your work. At their best, with author and editor working well together, they’re like a magic formula for improving your work. But a lot of people still find them insufficient. In particular, a manuscript assessment might say something like, “Your character Claudia isn’t yet cohering. Here’s what I mean in general terms [blah, blah, blah]. And here are some specific page references which illustrate my general point [page 23, page 58, etc].” Now that’s helpful, but it still leaves you to do an awful lot. If Claudia is a major character, the specific changes you need to make are likely to go well beyond the handful of examples the editor uses to make their broader point. So what do you do? Well, hopefully, you understand exactly where your editor is coming from, and you make the necessary changes, and your manuscript becomes perfect. Only maybe not. Some people just are helped by having their manuscript marked up page by page. That’s not instead of the more general report. It’s in addition. That way you get to see the broad thrust of the comments, as well as the more specific issues as well. So you get an overview of (for example) why Claudia isn’t quite working as well as a detailed laundry list of all the specific places where her character grates a bit. And it’s not just characterisation. It’s plot issues. It’s matters of writing style. It’s sense of place. It’s everything that goes into a novel. So – and this is because our clients have specifically asked us to create the product – we now offer a version of developmental editing that combines these services in a single package: Manuscript assessment – overview reportDetailed mark-up of your manuscript – literally page, by pageOne hour discussion with the editor, so you can resolve any outstanding questions or niggles you may have. Pretty obviously, this is a deluxe package and, pretty obviously, it’s expensive. It’s also, honestly, not what most of you need. Will I Benefit From Developmental Editing, Jericho-style? As a rough guide, very new writers are probably best off building their skills by taking a writing course or, of course, just hammering away at their manuscript. (That’s still the best learning exercise of all.) After that, once you have a first, or third, or fifth draft manuscript, it makes sense to get a regular manuscript assessment. That way, you can grasp the main issues with your work and you have a plan of attack for dealing with them. Because developmental editing is as much concerned both with the broader issues AND with the narrower ones, it doesn’t really make sense to purchase the service until your manuscript is in pretty good shape. After all, the outcome of a manuscript assessment might be “That whole sequence set on Venus just doesn’t work and needs to be rethought from scratch.” If that’s the case, then having detailed page-by-page comments on the way you write isn’t really going to help you much. So as a rough guide, you will benefit from developmental editing, if: Your manuscript is in pretty good shape (ie: this should be the last major round of work before submitting to publishers or self-publishing the manuscript)You want both broad and narrow commentsYou want the opportunity to talk at length with your editorYou are OK paying for a premium service. You will not benefit from developmental editing, if: Your manuscript is still at a somewhat earlier stage in its journeyYou feel able to handle the narrower issues yourself, so long as you have reasonable guidance from your manuscript assessment report. Because we don’t want to take your money if developmental editing is not right for you, we have made the service by application only. That’s not because we’re going to stop you doing what you want to do. Just, if we’re not sure whether it makes sense for you to splash the cash, we at least want to be able to check in with you before we go ahead. Line Editing, Copy Editing, Proof Reading OK. We’ve dealt with the broader, more structural types of editing. We’re now going to home in on the ever finer-grained types of editing. We’ll start as before with some definitions. Definitions Of the detailed, line-by-line type edits, line-editing is the one that has the broadest remit. I’ll start with proof-reading (the most narrowly defined of these editorial stages) and build upwards from there. Proof-reading comes at the final stage prior to printing/publication. It basically assumes that the manuscript has already been checked over thoroughly, so this is really only a final check for errors that have managed to slip through the net. (And, in fact historically, the process of type-setting for print often introduced errors, so proof-reading was partly necessary to reverse those. These days, unsurprisingly, you can format a document for print without messing it up.) The kind of errors a proof-reader will catch include: typos, misspellings, punctuation errors, missing spaces, and the like. It’s a micro-level, final-error catching task, and nothing much else. Copy-editing includes everything included in proofreading, but it’ll have a somewhat broader scope. So a copy editor will also be on the look out for factual errors, timetable and other inconsistencies in the novel, occasional instances of unclear or weak phrasing, awkward repetitions, deviations from house style (if there is a house style), and so on. In the traditional publishing sequence, copy editing will take place after all structural editing has been done, but before the book has been set for print. Line-editing will cover everything that’s detailed above, plus a general check for sentence structure, clarity and sense. In other words, it is part of a line editor’s job to fix clumsily phrased, repetitious or otherwise awkward sentences. Yes, you the author should not be writing clumsily in the first place, but if by chance you do, the line editor is there to put things right. Why does anyone ever want or need line-editing? Well, some authors are brilliant at generating character and story, but their actual sentence-by-sentence expression of that story just isn’t so great. In these cases, a publisher will commission a line-edit to put those things right. The Editing Process: What You Need & When You Need It Right. What kind of editing you need and should pay for depends on what kind of publication you are looking at. So: The Traditional Publishing Sequence The normal publishing sequence (for traditionally published books) would be: Structural editing (ie: a detailed manuscript assessment)Copy-editing (or line editing if the author really needs it, but never both things)Proof-reading That’s it. If you are aiming at traditional publication, then you may well need to invest in a manuscript assessment, in order to write something of the quality needed for a literary agent / publisher. You certainly won’t need copy editing, or anything along those lines. That’ll be carried out, for free, by the publisher down the line. (They’ll also do some more structural editing work too, but don’t worry about that – you can’t get too much, and your book always gets better.) The Indie Publishing Sequence Indie publishers, inevitably, focus more on cost-cutting than the Big 5 houses do, so a typical indie process might look simply like this: Some kind of structural support – probably an editorial assessment or something similarSome kind of copy-editing support If you don’t have the budget for both, I’d urge you to get the structural help: that’s what will really make the difference to the sheer readability of your book. That’s where to spend your funds. Indeed, though we at Jericho Writers offer a full range of copyediting and proofreading services, I don’t usually advise writers to invest in them at all. If you are an indie on a lowish launch budget (which is the right kind of budget to have when you’re just starting out), then I’d recommend an editing plan along roughly the following lines: Full editorial assessment, ideally from Jericho Writers (because we’re really good at it.)You then rework your book in the light of what you’ve been toldYou then give it a good hard proofread yourself for any errors and typosYou then enlist the help of any eagle-eyed friends to do the same That plan won’t give you a manuscript as clean as if you give it the full cost-no-object Big 5 treatment … but it’ll be just fine. Don’t overspend at this stage. The Indie Publishing Sequence OK. You know the basic layout of what editing is and when it’s used. Here’s what I think the big questions are. Developmental Editing Vs Structural Editing You know my view on this. I think for 99% of you reading this, you are best off (a) working and self-editing as hard as you can yourself, then (b) getting professional input on your work from a structural editor. That’s going to be miles cheaper and the end result will be better too. Yes, you’ll need to do a lot of work, but you’re a writer. You like work. (If you don’t, you’re in the wrong job.) If you are a newer author, you may well need two or three rounds of structural input. That’s fine. That’s not a failure on your part. That’s you learning a new trade. It’s money well spent – and you can prove it to yourself too. Just ask yourself: are you a better, more knowledgeable, more capable writer at the end of the process? If the answer isn’t yes, I’ll eat my boots, jingly spurs and all. (*) * – disclosure: I don’t actually wear spurs. Structural Editing Vs Copy Editing OK, these are two very different things, but of the two, the structural editing definitely matters more. The purpose of structural / substantive editing is simply: make your book the best book it can be. The purpose of copy editing is simply: make the text as clean as it can be. Both things matter, but if your budget only permits one of those things, then go for structural editing, every day of the week. A wonderful story is much more important than tidy text. And again, though we sell copyediting services, you shouldn’t need them at all if you are heading for trad publication, and you should probably be able to find an acceptable but much cheaper substitute if you are self-publishing. Line Editing Vs Copy Editing Vs Proof-reading If you are going to get line-by-line corrections to your MS, then the default answer is to go for copy editing. Proof-reading is really too narrow, and only really makes sense if your book has already been copy edited. (Which is fine if you have a Big 5 budget, but makes no sense for you.) Line editing is really only required if your sentence construction isn’t yet all it could be, in which case I’d urge you to invest in upskilling. Quite simply: as a pro author, you should be in command of your language. If you’re not, and have to pay a line editor, and if you intend to write 10, 15, 20 or more books over the course of your career, you’ll end up paying a fortune. Much, much better to nurture those exact skills in yourself, and you’ll never need to spend a penny on a line edit. Also: writing well is good for your soul and writing beautiful sentences is a source of beauty and joy forever. So don’t give anyone else the pleasure. And Finally… That’s it from me. Thanks for reading. If you’ve read this far, you may also like: Help on how to present your manuscript Help on how to self-edit your novel If you need help figuring out what kind of editorial process (or, indeed, other support) might be right for you, then get in touch. Jericho Writers does not have a sales team or employ salespeople or pay anyone on commission. Our customer service people are only allowed to recommend a particular service if they genuinely think it would be helpful to the writer concerned. We’re run by writers for writers, and we’re on your side. Thanks for reading – and happy editing! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
Read more

How to Edit a Novel First Draft

How to Self-Edit your Book – a Simple Guide A while back, I completed my fourth Fiona Griffiths novel. The publisher – those nice folks at Orion – liked the book and it was published. So far, so good. Still, both my editor and I felt the book just felt a bit long. There was nothing redundant or superfluous in it, just the whole book needed to be a little shorter. It was a ship dragging a sea-anchor. Nothing needed to be rebuilt. We just had to reduce the drag. This post is about how to edit a first draft novel, but based on an actual example of an author (me) going through that process, using my manuscript by way of example. The book was 136,500 words when I delivered it, but I have just finished a process of cutting and re-editing that has taken it down to 131,000 words. Since my changes included about 750 words of additional text, that means I’ve trimmed a total of somewhat more than 6,000 words, or about 5% of the novel. (Are you thinking that’s quite long for a thriller? Well, yes, it is. You can get a guide to average novel word counts here, but suffice to say, my work does tend to live at the long end of average. I’d save a lot of work if I learned how to write shorter books!) This post will share how I did that. What kind of cuts I made, the other adjustments that ensued, the thought processes involved. Before we get into the detail (and these things are all about detail), three things. This was my ninth published novel, and my thirteenth or fourteenth book. A first draft by a new writer is often able to lose 10% quite easily. It’s not uncommon for 20-30% to be a more accurate target. New Writers Rule #1Be ambitious when it comes to cutting material.You’re not aiming to lose content, necessarily – just verbiage.A 12 word sentence could become just a 9 word sentence?That’s the same as cutting 30,000 words from a 120K word novel! Second, the draft I first delivered to my publisher had already been edited hard. Not just for length, but for flow, atmosphere, plot logic, characterisation, dialogue, beauty, everything. Although the emphasis in this post is on how to cut a novel, this post is just about one small slice of the whole process. New Writers Rule #2When it comes to the self-editing process, everything is up for grabs.Everything.Plot, characters, pacing, twists, settings. Everything.There’s nothing sacred. Every little element has to contribute – or get changed. Third, it’s worth bearing in mind the narrator in what follows is my little Welsh detective, Fiona Griffiths, who has, according to one reviewer, ‘some of the most memorably staccato narration in the genre’. In other words, she likes short sentences, clipping verbs or pronouns where it would be more normal to retain them. That’s her voice. You do not have to follow suit. In other words, the decisions I make need to be taken in that Griffithsian context. Your decisions will be made in the context of your voice, your characters, your market, your story. New Writers Rule #3Don’t follow my rules.Make your own! Enough preamble. Let’s look at some cuts. Again, the examples are taken from my actual edits of my actual manuscript . . . Example Edit: Description of Scramble to Base of Cliff Here big chunks are dropping out. Some of it is simply about removing surplus. (We didn’t need the names of six different colours of rock or lichen, for example. We didn’t need to know exactly how far Fiona had soaked herself.) But notice how the scene becomes better as a result. All the pieces were there before, but the assembly was a bit slipshod. This tighter format makes the atmospherics work better, even though there’s actually less atmospheric language. But some of the cuts also had to do with a willingness to trust the reader. So, in the first version, my narrator has said, in effect, “Look, I’ve seen the crime scene photos and I know I’m in the right spot.” The second version just drops all that. Most readers won’t even wonder how Fiona knows where to stand. Those that do can probably be trusted to think, “Oh, I guess there’d be file photos, something like that.” And notice the tiny changes. “Just about practical” becomes “manageable”. That’s a saving of just two words, but I’d say that a full third of my cuts were probably made up of such tiny things. Here are a couple more examples of tiny cuts. There were hundreds, even thousands of such things through the new draft: Here, the sense of ‘can’t see anything’ is adequately reflected in Fiona’s question, so the sentence can go. Three words saved. Yummy. And, before we move on, just one more example of tiny: One word saved. Hooray. Overall, it was rare that I came across passages (like the first passage above) that I could really hack into. Much more common was a host of small or tiny changes that cumulated to something bigger. In total, Microsoft Word reckons I made 3400 changes between the first draft and the second. Now, you can maybe quibble about the way it counts, but the point is still good. You can cut a lot of words by making a lot of small changes. It’s hard work, but you’re a writer. And work is fun. Example Edit: Description of Crime Photo Now peek at this: The very first passage was taken, not from an action scene exactly, but one with real vibrancy all the same: a quest to see if an accidental death might really be a suicide. The chunk above, however, comes from one of those scenes that all novels have aplenty. Ones that are necessary to the story, but which don’t have real dramatic frisson. So the cuts above were aimed at simply reducing word count. Not too far, of course: we still need to ‘meet’ Emmett and to feel the atmosphere of that meeting. If I’d cut too far, the text could have felt economical but bland. But still. We didn’t need that sentence starting, ‘I’d have preferred …’. And yes, that sentence does do something to characterise Fiona Griffiths, but her character is all over this novel, anyway. So keeping a sentence like that in a scene that wants to be shorter made no sense. Out it went. Example Edit: Prison Description The same kind of logic applied here: The deleted material is perfectly fine, but it characterises a location that isn’t used in the scene. Fiona encounters her ex-convict friend in the car park, not the waiting room, so I left in the bit that talks about the car park, cutting the rest. Truth is, I think I was writing myself into the prison scene with that stuff about the waiting area. You’re welcome to write yourself into the scene – just remember to delete fluff. And even that bit in the car park is a wee bit tightened. Example Edit: Getting the Rhythms Right You also need to realise that you’re seldom just cutting, even if cutting word count is your only mission. Here’s a small example of what I mean. (But again: this is all about detail.) Now all I’ve done there is delete the six words about sailing boats. (Not worth doing? But six words is 0.1% of my total reduction target! That’s massively worth it.) But you’ll notice that the bit about the Bay now jumps to the previous paragraph. No actual words have changed but, even for the staccato Ms Griffiths, that “Views …” sentence didn’t have the muscle to comprise a paragraph all on its own, so I cut the para break and the text flows better. You have to be alert to those rhythmical things all the time. Here’s another example: That first deletion (‘all’) is simply a tidying up thing. It makes the sentence shorter, yes, but it also makes it better. I’d have made the change, even if I weren’t on a hunt for word count. But notice the next bit. I deleted the sentence ‘Like the efficient …’ because I wanted to compress this (not-very-high-octane) scene, but then having done so, the repetition of the word ‘finish’ would have been too much. So the first instance goes. And the rhythm now works again: the staccato four word sentence (‘neat, swift, etc.’), followed by one that sets up the reaction shot – and a teeny bit of tension as to how Jackson will respond. Example Edit: Increasing Sentence Force And as you cut text, you’ll find you get sensitised to other little points of detail. Ones like this, for example: You’ll notice that that’s three words cut, but three words added. There’s no alteration in meaning, nor have I even fiddled about with the sentence’s key flavour-giving words (ie: best-known, king, obscure). So why make the change? The answer is that the starts and ends of sentences have more power than the middles. A sentence that ends ‘ … not the most obscure either’ is just a little less forceful than one that says ‘… nor is he the most obscure.’ I changed the sentence so that the weight could lie in the final word, not the penultimate one. Example Edit: Getting your Scene / Chapter Endings Right A similar kind of point lies behind this cut: This is the end of a chapter. The first version still leaves Fiona’s question nicely mysterious – but the last four, very short, paragraphs don’t really add any more spice than simply ending the chapter at ‘And look, there’s something else.’ Ending early and arriving late is a very good rule to remember when checking your chapter constructions. Are you getting in as close as possible to the dramatic action? Are you leaving as soon as possible thereafter? And do note that ‘dramatic action’ means anything at all which increases the story pressure in the mind of the reader. Fiona’s final question blips that pressure up a notch (what is she asking, what does she want?), so the best place to finish the scene is right there, with the reader mid-blip. What Next? Since this is a long post already, that’s probably the place to leave it. But don’t feel you have to struggle alone with your novel. We have excellent editors ready to help you identify and fix the issues in your novel. If you want help understanding the various types of editorial service available, you can find a complete (and opinionated) guide here. A useful editing resource page (via Kindlepreneur) can be found here. And as you get close to the moment of actually Getting Your Manuscript Out There, you probably want to read our guide on how to get a literary agent and our complete literary agent FAQs page here. And of course, members of Jericho Writers get tons of help and community and access to publishing professionals. We built our club to help writers exactly like you, and we’d really love it if you came and joined us. You can find out all you need to know here. We look forward to welcoming you soon. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.  If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
Read more

Do Literary Agents Edit Manuscripts?

You asked. We answered. You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve edited hard. You are now on your fourth, seventh, nineteenth draft. You still absolutely believe in your basic concept and you are certain that you have a vocation for writing / authoring. But here’s the thing: you know your work isn’t yet good enough. Maybe you know that just because you’ve got that feelings in my bones. (And believe me: I’ve been there too.) Or maybe you’ve tried actually sending your work out to literary agents and had nothing but pre-printed rejection emails. (Or, worse, but very common – you haven’t even heard back.) So what next? It feels like a Catch-22. You want expert editing to help you over the last remaining hurdles, but the people who look like they ought to be helping you – those literary agents – aren’t even replying to your emails. So now what? And do these darn agents edit manuscripts, yes or no? Well, if you want the short answer, then it’s: Yes, they do edit manuscripts, but alsoNo, no, they really don’t. If that explanation doesn’t seem totally helpful, then I’ll see if I can make it a little clearer. When Agents Get Involved In Editing And when (more often) they don’t. When it comes to your dealings with literary agents, it’s essential to remember that these guys do not charge you anything upfront. Not a dollar, not a dime. I’ve had an agent for twenty years and I have never paid even one single penny for his or (with my first agent) her services – or not directly anyway. Because the way that agents get their money is by earning commissions on sales to publishers. So if you take the first book in my Fiona Griffiths series, my agent has made sales – and earned commission – on sales to publishers in Britain, America, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and further afield. He’s also been involved in the sale of TV rights. He’s also done a terrific audio deal for me. There may be other deals down the road too. Each time one of these deals happens, I get a wodge of money arriving in my bank account, from which the agent has deducted his little (and well-earned) sliver. The consequence of this “no fee / commission only” payment structure is that agents only get paid for their time if they make a sale – and then only if that sale is for enough money to pay them back for all that they’ve done. That’s should be easy-ish if the sale is to a Big 5 publisher and brings some overseas book deals in its wake. If the only sale is to a mid-sized or micro domestic publisher, then the agent is probably (privately) disappointed. The Tottering Slushpile If the commission-only way of doing business seems challenging, that challenge is compounded by the sheer volume of submissions that literary agents receive. That total varies from agent to agent, but about 2,000 submissions per agent per year would be typical. Of that an agent may find only 2-3 manuscripts that seem destined for the kind of advances that will generate enough revenue for an agent. The result? Predictably enough, agents will reject the vast majority of manuscripts that come their way. It’s not just that they don’t have the time to deal with those manuscripts and those clients, it’s that there’s no money in them. Most manuscripts that agents receive are just unsaleable. So When do Agents Edit? Agents will get involved in editorial advice when they come across a manuscript that: Has an excellent, saleable idea.Is written with a competent professionalism.Has a strong story.Is in the top 1%, or maybe the top 0.5% of all submissions.Is not ready to be sent to publishers as it stands. In effect, when an agent offers to get involved editorially, they are thinking, roughly: “Look, if I sent this manuscript out as it is, I might get offers, but I don’t think they’d be very strong ones... and actually, I might just get fistful of rejections. And I certainly don’t want that. “Then again, I can’t helpfeeling that this manuscript could do really well, if I put in the 2-3 dozen hours needed to get this manuscript into shape. Yes, the writer themselves will be doing the actual work here – my job will be one of guidance only; I’m not going to be making hands-on changes to the manuscript myself. “But with my input, and if the writer works hard and makes the changes I recommend? Then yes, I think this could be a really profitable (and fun, and artistically rewarding) project. I’m going to reach out to this author. Yay!“ As a writer, that’s good to hear on a number of levels. You don’t want a real estate guy who just dumps your house on the market without telling you to mow your overgrown lawn and fix that sagging guttering. You want the real estate person who forces you to fix the house up for sale, in order that you get the very best price. So the fact that agents are willing to be engaged, active and intelligent in how they sell your book is great to hear. But from your perspective, as writer, there are two crucial qualifications to take away. Crucial Thing the FirstYour manuscript has to be really, really good already.You can’t just use agents as a free pass to solving the difficulties that you and your manuscript face. If you send an agent a mediocre manuscript, you stand no chance at all of engaging them qua editor. In fact, because the competition is so intense, you won’t get an agent involved even if your book is really quite good. The sad fact is that “really quite good” isn’t even close to the standard agents are looking for. Crucial Thing the SecondSome agents are really strong editorially, and love doing it.Others just aren’t that strong and don’t pretend to be. After all, an agent’s core job as is as saleswoman (or, less often in this industry, salesman.) My first agent – who was great – told me directly when I engaged her that she just wasn’t that great at editing books, but she was a powerhouse when it came to selling them. These days, I’d say that all agents have had to become more hands on when it comes to polishing manuscripts prior to sale, but there’s still a reason why editors edit, and agents sell. In effect, using an agent as an editor is a bit like using a carpenter as a bricklayer. Sure, carpenters are skilled and multi-talented. They’ll probably do a pretty good job of building that wall, but . . . If You Want An Editor, Hire An Editor! There are plenty of freelance editors around. We at Jericho Writers built our business and our reputation by offering superb editorial advice to writers just like you. And what you get is editing, editing, editing. You pay for our input, and you get our full, committed, detailed assessment of your manuscript, along with a ton of recommendations about what to do and how to do it. Now you probably think that, because we make money from editing, and because we’ve had a huge number of success stories, I’m going to tell you to rush over to us for editorial help. Well, no. I’m not. You can’t use editorial input as a shortcut. Successful writers always put the hard yards in themselves. Some writers think something like this: “Hey, I’ve completed my manuscript. I’ve done a couple of quick read-throughs for typos and that kind of thing. I’ve emailed my manuscript out to a few dozen literary agents, but no one offered to take me on and they won’t help me edit my book, even though I asked really nicely. So, OK, maybe I need to pay someone to get this book into shape.” If you think like that, then you won’t make the grade as a writer and, to be honest with you, you aren’t the sort of client that we especially love dealing with. I mean, sure, we’ll work with anyone, and we’ll do our level professional best for you. But our favourite clients? They are always, always the super-committed ones. Remember: Writing is rewriting. Self-editing is the art of sifting through your manuscript and checking it for everything. Surplus words, sentences, paragraphs and scenes. Faulty, vague or unconvincing characterisation. Weak dialogue. Weak plotting. Problems with pace or viewpoint. Basically, you need to think like an author and work these things out for yourself, as far as you are possibly able. You will benefit in three ways. First, your manuscript will get better (probably a lot better). Secondly, your own skills as an author will grow. Thirdly, your pride and confidence will – quite rightly – grow and blossom. So, OK, you do all that and then you may still need editorial help. And that’s fine. Maybe you’ll just know for yourself that your manuscript needs work. Or maybe you’ll try your luck with literary agents and not get the response you wanted. Or maybe you’ve been scratching away at a dissatisfaction with your work, and have found yourself going round in circles. If you fit into any of those categories, then, yes, you do need third party editorial help and, yes, we at Jericho Writers would absolutely love to give it. We are here to deliver outstanding editorial services to committed writers, and we would be deeply honoured to work with you. In the meantime, happy writing, happy editing and (when you’re good and ready to send your work out) happy agent-hunting too! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.  If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
Read more

Types of Editing: How To Choose

Developmental editing. Structural editing. Line editing. Copy editing. Proofreading. Yes, we know: you’ve written a manuscript. You know it needs some kind of professional help. But what kind of help? Copy editing or line editing? Structural editing or developmental support? There seem to be so many options to choose from. But never fear. We’ll tell you exactly what each of the different types of editing are – and offer some suggestions on what editing you do/don’t need right now. The good news is that, quite often, you need less editorial input than you might think. (The bad news is that you have to put in a lot of hard graft instead …) What Are The Different Types Of Editing? Developmental editing: checks concept, plot coherence, and character development/arc.Structural editing: identifies issues with plot, pacing, characters, settings, themes, writing style.Line editing: looks at details line by line.Copy-editing: is much as above, except with less attention to line-by-line correction of clumsy writing.Proof reading: looks for simple typos or errors in the text. How Editing Works Before we go any further, it’s worth explaining the editorial heirarchy. Essentially you go from large to little, from structural to detailed. So it’s like building a house: you start with foundations, walls and roof. Then you start thinking about doors and windows. Then you start thinking about paints and wallpapers. Last, you go around sweeping up and sorting out any last little snags. The same thing with editing, where the hierarchy runs roughly like this, from big to small: Developmental editing. Is this concept sound? Does my plot cohere? Are these the right characters for this book?Structural editing. Identifying and addressing any number of issues covering (for example) plot, pacing, characters, character development, settings, emotional turning points, themes, writing style and much else.Line editing: this starts to look at the detail. Is each sentence clear? Are there typos? Unwanted repetitions? Minor factual errors?Copy editing: much as above, except there’s less attention to line-by-line correction of clumsy writing.Proof reading: At the proof stage, you generally expect that all the essential work has already been done, so this is really just rushing around the manuscript looking for last bits of lint to pick off and typos to clear away. That’s the overview. Not all manuscripts will go through all of these stages – indeed, if you’re doing a decent job as an author then two or three of these stages are probably redundant. All that said, let’s jump straight into the meat … Developmental Editing We’ll start with the biggest, broadest, most sweeping kind of editing you can get: developmental editing. That’s a type of editing that used to have one meaning, but it’s kind of morphed into two distinct beasts for reasons, I’ll explain in a second. Definition: What Is Developmental Editing? In the good old days, developmental editing used to have one precise meaning. It now has certainly two, and maybe three. A. Developmental Editing – Traditional Definition But we start with the first, core, and most precise definition. To quote the ever-reliable Wikipedia: “A developmental editor may guide an author (or group of authors) in conceiving the topic, planning the overall structure, and developing an outline—and may coach authors in their writing, chapter by chapter.” In other words, any true “editing” took place before the writing. It was a planning and design function, in essence. Because competent authors can probably take care of planning and design perfectly well by themselves, such editing was always relatively rare and, in fiction, very rare. (I’ve authored getting on for twenty books now and have never once had a development edit. I’m damn sure I never will.) B. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism But of course not all authors are perfect and, now and again, publishers have to deal with a manuscript they’ve commissioned, but which turns out to be absolutely dire. Think celebrity memoir of the worst sort. Or a multi-million-selling author who’s long since stopped caring about how he or she writes, because they know the money will roll in anyway. So what to do? Well, the standard solution in trade publishing is to do what is euphemistically called a ‘development edit’. What that actually means is that an editor takes on the role of something akin to a ghostwriter. They rip out everything that’s hopeless and rebuild. I’ve known a Big 5 editor who had done this a couple of times, and he said it was soul-destroying. He didn’t get any bonus for doing the work. He didn’t get a share of fame or royalties. He didn’t go on the chat shows or the book tours. And he was always dancing on eggshells with the Famous Author, because the author in question was very prickly about having his work slighted in any way. Even though the work in question sucked. Great. So that’s the second meaning of a development edit: basically a euphemism designed to disguise what is basically a ghostwriting job. When Is Classic Developmental Editing Right For You? It isn’t. You don’t need it. What you probably need (either now or in due course) is a professional manuscript assessment and possibly some of the add-ons normally associated with developmental editing. But in the classic sense of the term, you just don’t need it. We’ll talk about what you do need right away. Structural Editing, Substantive Editing, Editorial Assessment Right. So I’m not a big fan of developmental editing, but I LOVE the type of editing we’re about to talk about. But first up: definitions. Definitions Structural editing is, strictly speaking, a set of comments on the structure of your work. That will certainly involve plot and pacing. But it may also include comments on character, mood, emotional transitions, dialogue, character arcs, writing style and much more. If you’re being strict about it, structural editing should focus only on structure, but in practice editors tend to comment on anything that, in their view, needs attention. (Which is good. Which is what you want.) Basically, a good structural edit will tell you: What’s working (though they won’t spend too long on this)What’s not working (this is where the report will concentrate all its firepower)How to fix the stuff that isn’t yet right A good report will quite simply cover everything that you most need to know. It’ll do that from the perspective of the market for books as it is now. So the kind of crime novels (say) that could have sold 25 years ago may not be right for the market now. A good editor will know that, and set you on the right lines. Substantive editing is basically the same as structural editing, except that technically it doesn’t have to limit itself to structure alone. But since structural editors don’t in practice confine themselves to structural comments, it’s pretty safe to say that, in practice, the two things are exactly the same. Editorial assessment, or Manuscript assessment. These two things are exactly the same as structural editing. The difference is that an editorial assessment gives you an editorial report, but doesn’t usually also give you a marked-up manuscript as well. Again, in practice, these things blur into each other. Our own core editorial product is, indeed, the manuscript assessment. The main deliverable there is a long, detailed editorial report on your book. That said, a lot of editors will, if it’s useful, also mark-up all or part of your manuscript. Or if they don’t, they may quote so extensively from your work, that it’s kinda the same as if they did. In short, and give or take a few blurry bits on the edges: structural editing = substantive editing = editorial assessment = manuscript assessment Easy, right? Is Structural Editing / Editorial Assessment Right For You? Yes. Almost certainly: yes. Now, to be clear, I own Jericho Writers and if you trot along to buy one of our wonderful manuscript assessments, you’ll make me a teeny-tiny bit richer. So in that sense I’m biased. On the other hand, I just told you not to buy developmental edits, and I’d make myself a LOT richer if I got you to buy one of those things, so I hope I have a little credit in the bank. I’m speaking truth, not salesman yadda. And the reason I like structural editing so much is that: It is and remains the gold-standard way to improve a manuscript. Nothing else has ever come close. I’m not that far away from publishing my twentieth book. (I’m both trad & indie, and I love both channels, in case you’re wondering.) I’m a pretty damn good author. I’ve had very positive reviews in newspapers across the world. My books have sold in a kazillion countries and been adapted for TV. And every single one of my books have had detailed editorial input. And they’ve always, always got better as a result. Always.It makes you better as a writer. You always emerge from these exercises with new skills and new insights. You will apply those to your current manuscript, for sure, but you’ll apply them to the next one too. The more you work with skilled external editors, the more you’ll grow as a writer. (And, I think, as a human too.) So that’s why I think structural editing works so well, and for such a huge variety of manuscripts, genres and authors. When Should You Get Structural Input On Your Work? Well, OK. The businessman in me wants to say, “Get that input right now. Hand over your lovely hard-earned dollars / pounds / shekels / yen, and your soul and career will flourish, my friend.” But that’s not the right answer. The fact is that the right time for editorial input is generally: as late as possible. If you know you have a plot niggle in Part IV, then fix the damn niggle. Fix it as well as you can. Don’t go and pay someone to tell you that you have an issue. That’s dumb. Same thing if your characters feel a bit flat, or your atmosphere is a bit lacking, or whatever else. If you know your book has issues, then do the best you can to fix those issues. You’ll learn a lot and your book will get better. That means, the right time for editorial input comes when: You’ve worked hard, but you keep going round in circles. You’re confusing yourself. You need external eyes and buckets of wisdom.You’ve worked hard, but you know the book isn’t right. You don’t know what’s awry exactly, but you know you need help.You’ve worked hard, you’ve got the book out to agents, but you’re not getting offers of representation. You know you need to do something, but you don’t know what.The self-pub version of 2: you have a draft you’re reasonably happy with, but you’re about to publish this damn thing, and your whole future career depends on the excellence of the story you’re going to serve the reader. So you do the right thing and invest in the product. You’re going to get the best kickass structural edit you can, then use that advice as intensively as you can. (Editing, in fact, is one of the only two things that should cost you real money at this early stage: the other one is cover design. And, no surprise, they both relate to developing the best product it is in your power to produce.) In short: work as hard as you can on the book. When you’re no longer making discernible forward progress, come to an editor. And – blatant plug alert! – Jericho Writers is very, very good at editorial stuff. We’ve got a bazillion people published, trad and indie, and the success stories just keep coming. Developmental Editing – As Premium Manuscript Assessment I love manuscript assessments – I think they’re the single most helpful thing you can do to improve your work. At their best, with author and editor working well together, they’re like a magic formula for improving your work. But a lot of people still find them insufficient. In particular, a manuscript assessment might say something like, “Your character Claudia isn’t yet cohering. Here’s what I mean in general terms [blah, blah, blah]. And here are some specific page references which illustrate my general point [page 23, page 58, etc].” Now that’s helpful, but it still leaves you to do an awful lot. If Claudia is a major character, the specific changes you need to make are likely to go well beyond the handful of examples the editor uses to make their broader point. So what do you do? Well, hopefully, you understand exactly where your editor is coming from, and you make the necessary changes, and your manuscript becomes perfect. Only maybe not. Some people just are helped by having their manuscript marked up page by page. That’s not instead of the more general report. It’s in addition. That way you get to see the broad thrust of the comments, as well as the more specific issues as well. So you get an overview of (for example) why Claudia isn’t quite working as well as a detailed laundry list of all the specific places where her character grates a bit. And it’s not just characterisation. It’s plot issues. It’s matters of writing style. It’s sense of place. It’s everything that goes into a novel. So – and this is because our clients have specifically asked us to create the product – we now offer a version of developmental editing that combines these services in a single package: Manuscript assessment – overview reportDetailed mark-up of your manuscript – literally page, by pageOne hour discussion with the editor, so you can resolve any outstanding questions or niggles you may have. Pretty obviously, this is a deluxe package and, pretty obviously, it’s expensive. It’s also, honestly, not what most of you need. Will I Benefit From Developmental Editing, Jericho-style? As a rough guide, very new writers are probably best off building their skills by taking a writing course or, of course, just hammering away at their manuscript. (That’s still the best learning exercise of all.) After that, once you have a first, or third, or fifth draft manuscript, it makes sense to get a regular manuscript assessment. That way, you can grasp the main issues with your work and you have a plan of attack for dealing with them. Because developmental editing is as much concerned both with the broader issues AND with the narrower ones, it doesn’t really make sense to purchase the service until your manuscript is in pretty good shape. After all, the outcome of a manuscript assessment might be “That whole sequence set on Venus just doesn’t work and needs to be rethought from scratch.” If that’s the case, then having detailed page-by-page comments on the way you write isn’t really going to help you much. So as a rough guide, you will benefit from developmental editing, if: Your manuscript is in pretty good shape (ie: this should be the last major round of work before submitting to publishers or self-publishing the manuscript)You want both broad and narrow commentsYou want the opportunity to talk at length with your editorYou are OK paying for a premium service. You will not benefit from developmental editing, if: Your manuscript is still at a somewhat earlier stage in its journeyYou feel able to handle the narrower issues yourself, so long as you have reasonable guidance from your manuscript assessment report. Because we don’t want to take your money if developmental editing is not right for you, we have made the service by application only. That’s not because we’re going to stop you doing what you want to do. Just, if we’re not sure whether it makes sense for you to splash the cash, we at least want to be able to check in with you before we go ahead. Line Editing, Copy Editing, Proof Reading OK. We’ve dealt with the broader, more structural types of editing. We’re now going to home in on the ever finer-grained types of editing. We’ll start as before with some definitions. Definitions Of the detailed, line-by-line type edits, line-editing is the one that has the broadest remit. I’ll start with proof-reading (the most narrowly defined of these editorial stages) and build upwards from there. Proof-reading comes at the final stage prior to printing/publication. It basically assumes that the manuscript has already been checked over thoroughly, so this is really only a final check for errors that have managed to slip through the net. (And, in fact historically, the process of type-setting for print often introduced errors, so proof-reading was partly necessary to reverse those. These days, unsurprisingly, you can format a document for print without messing it up.) The kind of errors a proof-reader will catch include: typos, misspellings, punctuation errors, missing spaces, and the like. It’s a micro-level, final-error catching task, and nothing much else. Copy-editing includes everything included in proofreading, but it’ll have a somewhat broader scope. So a copy editor will also be on the look out for factual errors, timetable and other inconsistencies in the novel, occasional instances of unclear or weak phrasing, awkward repetitions, deviations from house style (if there is a house style), and so on. In the traditional publishing sequence, copy editing will take place after all structural editing has been done, but before the book has been set for print. Line-editing will cover everything that’s detailed above, plus a general check for sentence structure, clarity and sense. In other words, it is part of a line editor’s job to fix clumsily phrased, repetitious or otherwise awkward sentences. Yes, you the author should not be writing clumsily in the first place, but if by chance you do, the line editor is there to put things right. Why does anyone ever want or need line-editing? Well, some authors are brilliant at generating character and story, but their actual sentence-by-sentence expression of that story just isn’t so great. In these cases, a publisher will commission a line-edit to put those things right. The Editing Process: What You Need & when You Need It Right. What kind of editing you need and should pay for depends on what kind of publication you are looking at. So: The Traditional Publishing Sequence The normal publishing sequence (for traditionally published books) would be: Structural editing (ie: a detailed manuscript assessment)Copy-editing (or line editing if the author really needs it, but never both things)Proof-reading That’s it. If you are aiming at traditional publication, then you may well need to invest in a manuscript assessment, in order to write something of the quality needed for a literary agent / publisher. You certainly won’t need copy editing, or anything along those lines. That’ll be carried out, for free, by the publisher down the line. (They’ll also do some more structural editing work too, but don’t worry about that – you can’t get too much, and your book always gets better.) The Indie Publishing Sequence Indie publishers, inevitably, focus more on cost-cutting than the Big 5 houses do, so a typical indie process might look simply like this: Some kind of structural support – probably an editorial assessment or something similarSome kind of copy-editing support If you don’t have the budget for both, I’d urge you to get the structural help: that’s what will really make the difference to the sheer readability of your book. That’s where to spend your funds. Indeed, though we at Jericho Writers offer a full range of copyediting and proofreading services, I don’t usually advise writers to invest in them at all. If you are an indie on a lowish launch budget (which is the right kind of budget to have when you’re just starting out), then I’d recommend an editing plan along roughly the following lines: Full editorial assessment, ideally from Jericho Writers (because we’re really good at it.)You then rework your book in the light of what you’ve been toldYou then give it a good hard proofread yourself for any errors and typosYou then enlist the help of any eagle-eyed friends to do the same That plan won’t give you a manuscript as clean as if you give it the full cost-no-object Big 5 treatment … but it’ll be just fine. Don’t overspend at this stage. What Kind Of Editing Is Right For You? OK. You know the basic layout of what editing is and when it’s used. Here’s what I think the big questions are. Developmental Editing Vs Structural Editing You know my view on this. I think for 99% of you reading this, you are best off (a) working and self-editing as hard as you can yourself, then (b) getting professional input on your work from a structural editor. That’s going to be miles cheaper and the end result will be better too. Yes, you’ll need to do a lot of work, but you’re a writer. You like work. (If you don’t, you’re in the wrong job.) If you are a newer author, you may well need two or three rounds of structural input. That’s fine. That’s not a failure on your part. That’s you learning a new trade. It’s money well spent – and you can prove it to yourself too. Just ask yourself: are you a better, more knowledgeable, more capable writer at the end of the process? If the answer isn’t yes, I’ll eat my boots, jingly spurs and all. (*) * – disclosure: I don’t actually wear spurs. Structural Editing Vs Copy Editing OK, these are two very different things, but of the two, the structural editing definitely matters more. The purpose of structural / substantive editing is simply: make your book the best book it can be. The purpose of copy editing is simply: make the text as clean as it can be. Both things matter, but if your budget only permits one of those things, then go for structural editing, every day of the week. A wonderful story is much more important than tidy text. And again, though we sell copyediting services, you shouldn’t need them at all if you are heading for trad publication, and you should probably be able to find an acceptable but much cheaper substitute if you are self-publishing. Line Editing Vs Copy Editing Vs Proof-reading If you are going to get line-by-line corrections to your MS, then the default answer is to go for copy editing. Proof-reading is really too narrow, and only really makes sense if your book has already been copy edited. (Which is fine if you have a Big 5 budget, but
Read more

How to Revise a First Draft

A checklist for your novel or manuscript rewriting process In this blog post, pro novelist and writing tutor, Emma Darwin (full bio below) gives you her advice on how to revise a first draft of your writing. So you’ve written your first draft novel (or other manuscript). That’s great. Congratulations. It’s a big moment. But now you need to make sure that your novel draft works on other readers as you want it to. Maybe you’ve just about managed to tame your novel, but now you’re facing A Big Revision or Rewriting of your first draft – so where on earth do you start? Before you edit, revise or rewrite anything, here are some pointers. Step 1: Read Through Your Book First, I suggest, you need to do your own appraisal, trying to read your first draft novel straight through, and as much like a reader as you can. I call this “problem-finding”, and by far the best way to do this it on paper, with a pen in your hand. Using track-changes and comment balloons on screen is a poor second, but possible; either way, you’re trying to record your reactions, as a reader, to the story, not start problem-solving: that comes later. Also note any wider thoughts that this reading throws up, but don’t then just dive into the most urgent or least frightening job. Because so many decisions and changes will affect all sorts of other things, it’s terribly easy to lose track, get diverted, lapse into fiddling and tinkering, and generally get into a worse muddle than you started in. Step Two: Organise Your Thoughts So, first bring all the different feedback you’ve had together, make an enormous pot of coffee or your working-drink of choice, and start sorting it out into rough categories. Problems that run all through the story: the order you’re telling the story in doesn’t work; a character is cardboard, or vanishes, a lost-letter plot’s in a muddle; the narrative voice is dull.Problems with particular sections: a saggy middle; that scene where the dialogue is flat as a pancake; the too-confusing opening; the crucial but oh-so-difficult sex, or battle, scene.Problems of continuity and consistency, such as paragraphing, how dialogue is punctuated, or how you represent dialect.What I call “bits”: individual corrections and tweaks, from typos, to one-off clunky paragraphs, to missing research. Once you have the overall picture, you can sort it out into a to-do list, and decide on the order to tackle your rewrite. The temptation here is to plunge straight into the revision process . . . but you need to resist that. Before you start to edit, revise and rewrite like crazy, you have a little more organising to do. Step 3: Work From Big To Small One possibility is to look at p.1, do everything it needs, then move on p.2, but that’s probably not the best way to tackle it. As with totally renovating a house (only this one you don’t have to live in at the same time), it’s not wise to do the whole of one room, from damp-course to top-coat, before you start the next. You neeed to make sure the structure is solid and the roof waterproof, only then get the electrician in to move lights and install heating, and only when all that’s done, do you paint the walls and lay carpets. Whichever order you do things in, any major change probably has ramifications elsewhere. Get into the habit of not galloping off to follow up now, but make a note on your To Do list to tackle it at a logical point. And although every writer is different, this I suggest, would be a good order in which to tackle things: Big structural changes. Don’t worry about the close-detail of stitching the sections into their new places, just do the rough carpentry.Any all-through-the-story things which need shrinking, changing or enhancing.Individual work on scenes and sections, now that they’re all in the (probably) right place.Consistency and continuity things which are most easily done when you put on the right glasses and deal with that issue all together: a character’s taste in clothes, say, or the punctuation and paragraphing of dialogue.Just work through from the beginning of your manuscript, and any other mark-up by your readers. Step Four: Work In Layers As much as you possibly can, tackle any particular problem working forwards in the story, so that you stay in touch with how the reader reads. It’s super-important for plots which depend on who-knows-what, about what, when. But it also matters for things like characterisation and setting, because the reader is encountering this person or place in stages, through time: make sure you’re in control of how that knowledge develops. If it helps you, work through the novel focusing on just one layer: Aunt Anita’s character arc, let’s say, or the way you build a picture of 1940s Manhattan. Ignore anything else (good or bad) if it doesn’t pertain to those exact issues. I know it feels inefficient to “go through the book” so many times, but believe me, you save far more trouble than you spend, because you don’t get in a muddle, duplicate work or cause muddles elsewhere without realising. Step 5: Re-read The Entire Text If you follow the advice above, you’ll have far less work to do once you get to the last stage: Do another straight read-through-like-a-reader, in print or on screen. Use this to pick up any darning-in of the big structural changes that’s still needed, and anything else you might have missed. This also is a very good moment to read it aloud, pen in hand, if you haven’t already: it’s brilliant for picking up typos, and more generally getting outside the novel to read it as if you didn’t write it. Just have a big jug of water to hand. Step 6: Stay Positive If all this sounds as if it’s more work than writing the first draft was – you’d be right. All authors know that writing is rewriting. Revising the first draft of a novel isn’t easy. True, some rewrite each page or even line, until it’s perfect, then move on, while others hurl a whole first draft down on the page, spelling-mistakes and all, and only then go back and start to hammer it into shape. Still, most would say that they spend perhaps three or four times as long on that rewriting of a page or novel as they did on putting the first version of those words on paper. GUEST POST BY : EMMA DARWIN Emma Darwin’s debut novel was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Book and the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year awards, and she is the author of Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction. Her blog is used for writing courses around the world. For more on these and a host of other writerly topics, click through to resources via my blog.
Read more

Editing For Beginners

Developmental editing. Structural editing. Line editing. Copy editing. Proofreading. Yes, we know: you’ve written a manuscript. You know it needs some kind of professional help. But what kind of help? Copy editing or line editing? Structural editing or developmental support? There seem to be so many options to choose from. But never fear. We’ll tell you exactly what each of the different types of editing are – and offer some suggestions on what editing you do/don’t need right now. The good news is that, quite often, you need less editorial input than you might think. (The bad news is that you have to put in a lot of hard graft instead …) What Are The Different Types Of Editing? Developmental editing: checks concept, plot coherence, and character development/arc.Structural editing: identifies issues with plot, pacing, characters, settings, themes, and writing style.Line editing: looks at details line by line.Copy-editing: is much as above, except with less attention to line-by-line correction of clumsy writing.Proof reading: looks for simple typos or errors in the text. How Editing Works Before we go any further, it’s worth explaining the editorial heirarchy. Essentially you go from large to little, from structural to detailed. So it’s like building a house: you start with foundations, walls and roof. Then you start thinking about doors and windows. Then you start thinking about paints and wallpapers. Last, you go around sweeping up and sorting out any last little snags. The same thing with editing, where the hierarchy runs roughly like this, from big to small: Developmental editing. Is this concept sound? Does my plot cohere? Are these the right characters for this book?Structural editing. Identifying and addressing any number of issues covering (for example) plot, pacing, characters, character development, settings, emotional turning points, themes, writing style and much else.Line editing: this starts to look at the detail. Is each sentence clear? Are there typos? Unwanted repetitions? Minor factual errors?Copy editing: much as above, except there’s less attention to line-by-line correction of clumsy writing.Proof reading: At the proof stage, you generally expect that all the essential work has already been done, so this is really just rushing around the manuscript looking for last bits of lint to pick off and typos to clear away. That’s the overview. Not all manuscripts will go through all of these stages – indeed, if you’re doing a decent job as an author then two or three of these stages are probably redundant. (Oh, and I have quite a long rant about developmental editing below. If that’s not what you’re interested in, just skip down the blog post to the other stuff. I won’t be offended, I promise.) All that said, let’s jump straight into the meat … Developmental Editing We’ll start with the biggest, broadest, most sweeping kind of editing you can get: developmental editing. That’s a type of editing that used to have one meaning, but it’s kind of morphed into two distinct beasts for reasons, I’ll explain in a second. Definition: What Is Developmental Editing? In the good old days, developmental editing used to have one precise meaning. It now has certainly two, and maybe three. A. Developmental Editing – Traditional Definition But we start with the first, core, and most precise definition. To quote the ever-reliable Wikipedia: “A developmental editor may guide an author (or group of authors) in conceiving the topic, planning the overall structure, and developing an outline—and may coach authors in their writing, chapter by chapter.” In other words, any true “editing” took place before the writing. It was a planning and design function, in essence. Because competent authors can probably take care of planning and design perfectly well by themselves, such editing was always relatively rare and, in fiction, very rare. (I’ve authored getting on for twenty books now and have never once had a development edit. I’m damn sure I never will.) B. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism But of course not all authors are perfect and, now and again, publishers have to deal with a manuscript they’ve commissioned, but which turns out to be absolutely dire. Think celebrity memoir of the worst sort. Or a multi-million-selling author who’s long since stopped caring about how he or she writes, because they know the money will roll in anyway. So what to do? Well, the standard solution in trade publishing is to do what is euphemistically called a ‘development edit’. What that actually means is that an editor takes on the role of something akin to a ghostwriter. They rip out everything that’s hopeless and rebuild. I’ve known a Big 5 editor who had done this a couple of times, and he said it was soul-destroying. He didn’t get any bonus for doing the work. He didn’t get a share of fame or royalties. He didn’t go on the chat shows or the book tours. And he was always dancing on eggshells with the Famous Author, because the author in question was very prickly about having his work slighted in any way. Even though the work in question sucked. Great. So that’s the second meaning of a development edit: basically a euphemism designed to disguise what is basically a ghostwriting job. C. Developmental Editing In Self-Publishing That second meaning – basically, “complete text overhaul” – has given rise to a third one. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a particularly weighty hardback for the last few years, you’ll have noticed that indie authors (that is, self-published ones) have done rather well. They’ve gobbled ever more market share. Their books look better than ever before. They read better than before. They are marketed superbly. (So much so, in fact, that every single notable marketing innovation of the last few years originated with the self-pub industry. That’s astonishing.) Over time, whole sections of the market (romance, SF) have been pretty much eaten whole by these indie authors. But let’s say you’re one of the modern breed of self-pub demigods. You publish 4-6 books a year. You have a backlist of 20+ titles. You know how to exploit all the key marketing channels at your disposal, and you exploit em good. You earn, for sure, a good six-figures. Quite possibly, you’ve hit seven. A million bucks plus in annual income. Wow! Kudos to you, my friend. We mortals bow in awe. But those demigods still have to write the damn books! And do everything else! And sleep! How do they fit it all in? Well, the answer is often that those authors complete their 80,000 word novel in 3 months – something I’ve done just once in 20 years. They’re skilled and experienced writers and they’re also just plain good. That’s why they earn what they earn. (You can’t market rubbish.) But still. A first draft is a first draft, and first drafts aren’t normally known for their wonderful excellence. So these pro authors often work with a developmental editor. That editor’s task is basically to clean up the text. Solve plot problems. Clean up sentences. Add a bit of setting and colour, if those things are sometimes wanting. Make sure that if the hero starts with blue eyes, his eyes haven’t changed colour halfway through. And so on. The author and editor will often form a team who know each other very well, understand each other’s roles, and produce genuinely excellent books together. That’s not how the traditional industry ever worked, except in crisis, but then again the traditional industry was never all that great at churning out authors earning six- and seven-figures a year. When Is Developmental Editing Right For You? Honestly? You want my most honest opinion here? I think developmental editing (in the third, “complete text overhaul” sense) is not right for you. I think it almost never is. Yes, if you’re an indie author making good money then by all means structure your workflow in whatever way works best for you. I know that you’ll produce great books. I know that you have the capacity to write great ones without that level of external assistance. I know that it’s simple time-poverty which calls for the use of a development editor. Fine. In your shoes, I’d do the same. But I’m prepared to bet that time-poor, six-figure-plus indies aren’t the ones reading this post. I’m going to bet that you, my dear reader, have either published nothing at all, or perhaps one or two titles that haven’t yet hit the jackpot in terms of sales. In which case: learn your craft. Get so good at the writing game that you can write beautifully written, brilliantly plotted, utterly compelling books without some massive external input. That’s your task as a writer. It’s what’s good for your soul. But it’s also what’s good for your career too. I’ve seen a fair few manuscripts by newbie authors that have had a (very expensive) developmental edit. I’m talking investments of $3,000, $5,000 or even more. Sheez! And you know what? An raggedy and unpublishable manuscript was turned, by the magic of developmental editing, into a clean and unpublishable one. Yes, sentence structure was clarified. Yes, the basics of character were noted down more cleanly. Yes, the plot kinda functioned. But have any of those manuscripts felt compelling to the reader? Or memorable? Or powerful enough to sell the next book in the series? No. Definitely not. (I’ve started to read a few of those manuscripts. I’ve never ever finished one.) In short, developmental editing will work for you, if: You are a pro indie author, with strong writing skills already in placeYou are a trad-published celebrity, because your name is what is going to shift your terrible memoir, not the quality of writing inside Developmental editing will not work for you, if: You don’t already have a strong skill set as a writerYou don’t have a strong income stream / reader-base against which to offset the costs of the edit Why Has Developmental Editing Become Popular? There’s no question that developmental editing (in the third, indie author sense) has become much more popular than ever before. I think that’s largely an error and I think it’s arisen for two reasons: People see the success of the indie powerhouses, and think, “Well, this fancy-pants editing is part of their workflow, so it ought to be part of mine.”Editorial companies make a ton of money by selling developmental editing. They push it as a kind of natural service, the one anyone would choose if they had the resources. Well, I’m not just an author. I also run Jericho Writers which, as you may have noticed, sells some very fine editorial services. You can check them out here. But we don’t sell developmental editing, because we don’t think it’s in the interests of our clients. Yes, if you ask us, it’s something we can provide. And people DO ask us. And offer us a LOT of money. And still, we mostly steer them away from it. I don’t think developmental editing is what you need. If you have a specific set of circumstances where you think you might need it, then fine. Talk to us. But mostly? Honestly? I think developmental editing is an overpriced waste of time for 99% of the people who buy the service. Sorry. Structural Editing, Substantive Editing, Editorial Assessment Right. So I’m not a big fan of developmental editing, but I LOVE the type of editing we’re about to talk about. But first up: definitions. Definitions Structural editing is, strictly speaking, a set of comments on the structure of your work. That will certainly involve plot and pacing. But it may also include comments on character, mood, emotional transitions, dialogue, character arcs, writing style and much more. If you’re being strict about it, structural editing should focus only on structure, but in practice editors tend to comment on anything that, in their view, needs attention. (Which is good. Which is what you want.) Basically, a good structural edit will tell you: What’s working (though they won’t spend too long on this)What’s not working (this is where the report will concentrate all its firepower)How to fix the stuff that isn’t yet right A good report will quite simply cover everything that you most need to know. It’ll do that from the perspective of the market for books as it is now. So the kind of crime novels (say) that could have sold 25 years ago may not be right for the market now. A good editor will know that, and set you on the right lines. Substantive editing is basically the same as structural editing, except that technically it doesn’t have to limit itself to structure alone. But since structural editors don’t in practice confine themselves to structural comments, it’s pretty safe to say that, in practice, the two things are exactly the same. Editorial assessment, or Manuscript assessment. These two things are exactly the same as structural editing. The difference is that an editorial assessment gives you an editorial report, but doesn’t usually also give you a marked-up manuscript as well. Again, in practice, these things blur into each other. Our own core editorial product is, indeed, the manuscript assessment. The main deliverable there is a long, detailed editorial report on your book. That said, a lot of editors will, if it’s useful, also mark-up all or part of your manuscript. Or if they don’t, they may quote so extensively from your work, that it’s kinda the same as if they did. In short, and give or take a few blurry bits on the edges: structural editing = substantive editing = editorial assessment = manuscript assessment Easy, right? Is Structural Editing / Editorial Assessment Right For You? Yes. Almost certainly: yes. Now, to be clear, I own Jericho Writers and if you trot along to buy one of our wonderful manuscript assessments, you’ll make me a teeny-tiny bit richer. So in that sense I’m biased. On the other hand, I just told you not to buy developmental edits, and I’d make myself a LOT richer if I got you to buy one of those things, so I hope I have a little credit in the bank. I’m speaking truth, not salesman yadda. And the reason I like structural editing so much is that: It is and remains the gold-standard way to improve a manuscript. Nothing else has ever come close. I’m not that far away from publishing my twentieth book. (I’m both trad & indie, and I love both channels, in case you’re wondering.) I’m a pretty damn good author. I’ve had very positive reviews in newspapers across the world. My books have sold in a kazillion countries and been adapted for TV. And every single one of my books have had detailed editorial input. And they’ve always, always got better as a result. Always.It makes you better as a writer. You always emerge from these exercises with new skills and new insights. You will apply those to your current manuscript, for sure, but you’ll apply them to the next one too. The more you work with skilled external editors, the more you’ll grow as a writer. (And, I think, as a human too.) So that’s why I think structural editing works so well, and for such a huge variety of manuscripts, genres and authors. When Should You Get Structural Input On Your Work? Well, OK. The businessman in me wants to say, “Get that input right now. Hand over your lovely hard-earned dollars / pounds / shekels / yen, and your soul and career will flourish, my friend.” But that’s not the right answer. The fact is that the right time for editorial input is generally: as late as possible. If you know you have a plot niggle in Part IV, then fix the damn niggle. Fix it as well as you can. Don’t go and pay someone to tell you that you have an issue. That’s dumb. Same thing if your characters feel a bit flat, or your atmosphere is a bit lacking, or whatever else. If you know your book has issues, then do the best you can to fix those issues. You’ll learn a lot and your book will get better. That means, the right time for editorial input comes when: You’ve worked hard, but you keep going round in circles. You’re confusing yourself. You need external eyes and buckets of wisdom.You’ve worked hard, but you know the book isn’t right. You don’t know what’s awry exactly, but you know you need help.You’ve worked hard, you’ve got the book out to agents, but you’re not getting offers of representation. You know you need to do something, but you don’t know what.The self-pub version of 2: you have a draft you’re reasonably happy with, but you’re about to publish this damn thing, and your whole future career depends on the excellence of the story you’re going to serve the reader. So you do the right thing and invest in the product. You’re going to get the best kickass structural edit you can, then use that advice as intensively as you can. (Editing, in fact, is one of the only two things that should cost you real money at this early stage: the other one is cover design. And, no surprise, they both relate to developing the best product it is in your power to produce.) In short: work as hard as you can on the book. When you’re no longer making discernible forward progress, come to an editor. And – blatant plug alert! – Jericho Writers is very, very good at editorial stuff. We’ve got a bazillion people published, trad and indie, and the success stories just keep coming. Line Editing, Copy Editing, Proof Reading OK. We’ve dealt with the broader, more structural types of editing. We’re now going to home in on the ever finer-grained types of editing. We’ll start as before with some definitions. Definitions Of the detailed, line-by-line type edits, line-editing is the one that has the broadest remit. I’ll start with proof-reading (the most narrowly defined of these editorial stages) and build upwards from there. Proof-reading comes at the final stage prior to printing/publication. It basically assumes that the manuscript has already been checked over thoroughly, so this is really only a final check for errors that have managed to slip through the net. (And, in fact historically, the process of type-setting for print often introduced errors, so proof-reading was partly necessary to reverse those. These days, unsurprisingly, you can format a document for print without messing it up.) The kind of errors a proof-reader will catch include: typos, misspellings, punctuation errors, missing spaces, and the like. It’s a micro-level, final-error catching task, and nothing much else. Copy-editing includes everything included in proofreading, but it’ll have a somewhat broader scope. So a copy editor will also be on the look out for factual errors, timetable and other inconsistencies in the novel, occasional instances of unclear or weak phrasing, awkward repetitions, deviations from house style (if there is a house style), and so on. In the traditional publishing sequence, copy editing will take place after all structural editing has been done, but before the book has been set for print. Line-editing will cover everything that’s detailed above, plus a general check for sentence structure, clarity and sense. In other words, it is part of a line editor’s job to fix clumsily phrased, repetitious or otherwise awkward sentences. Yes, you the author should not be writing clumsily in the first place, but if by chance you do, the line editor is there to put things right. Why does anyone ever want or need line-editing? Well, some authors are brilliant at generating character and story, but their actual sentence-by-sentence expression of that story just isn’t so great. In these cases, a publisher will commission a line-edit to put those things right. The Editing Process: What You Need & When You Need It Right. What kind of editing you need and should pay for depends on what kind of publication you are looking at. So: The Traditional Publishing Sequence The normal publishing sequence (for traditionally published books) would be: Structural editing (ie: a detailed manuscript assessment)Copy-editing (or line editing if the author really needs it, but never both things)Proof-reading That’s it. If you are aiming at traditional publication, then you may well need to invest in a manuscript assessment, in order to write something of the quality needed for a literary agent / publisher. You certainly won’t need copy editing, or anything along those lines. That’ll be carried out, for free, by the publisher down the line. (They’ll also do some more structural editing work too, but don’t worry about that – you can’t get too much, and your book always gets better.) The Indie Publishing Sequence Indie publishers, inevitably, focus more on cost-cutting than the Big 5 houses do, so a typical indie process might look simply like this: Some kind of structural support – probably an editorial assessment or something similarSome kind of copy-editing support If you don’t have the budget for both, I’d urge you to get the structural help: that’s what will really make the difference to the sheer readability of your book. That’s where to spend your funds. Indeed, though we at Jericho Writers offer a full range of copyediting and proofreading services, I don’t usually advise writers to invest in them at all. If you are an indie on a lowish launch budget (which is the right kind of budget to have when you’re just starting out), then I’d recommend an editing plan along roughly the following lines: Full editorial assessment, ideally from Jericho Writers (because we’re really good at it.)You then rework your book in the light of what you’ve been toldYou then give it a good hard proofread yourself for any errors and typosYou then enlist the help of any eagle-eyed friends to do the same That plan won’t give you a manuscript as clean as if you give it the full cost-no-object Big 5 treatment … but it’ll be just fine. Don’t overspend at this stage. If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
Read more
Page 1 of 1