Which Editor do you Need?

So, you've finished your book, what next? Before you start querying - or self-publishing - it's vital that you get an editor to look over your work and make it as polished as possible! However, there are sooo many different editors offering various services, that it can be very confusing to know which one to go for! So which one do you choose? Luckily for you, our guide below spells it all out for you! Keep reading to see the five top types of editing and see which one suits you...

Editorial Assessment

If you want feedback on a manuscript that is not quite ready, then an editorial assessment is what you're looking for.

An editorial assessment will look at the overall plot of your manuscript and provide a report with feedback on any issues. It doesn't have the detail or separate reports included in a full developmental edit (see below!) but it does give an unfinished manuscript guidance and an independent, professional viewpoint. This is perfect if you are in the early stages of writing and want some feedback before continuing down a certain path!

Developmental Editing (Substantive/Content Editing)

Developmental, substantive and content editing are all the same thing. This is the first step in the editing process as it will flesh out the plot and make your story really shine.

A developmental edit basically means the editor will provide detailed feedback on the big issues within your story. All of the elements of your story will be reviewed. They will refine your ideas, shape narrative. review character inconsistencies and also make you aware of plot holes! Each scene, as well as each character, is dissected and checked for value.

The editor will provide an editorial report which will have a running commentary on the story. This should include both positive and negative critique. They will also provide an annotated manuscript - a marked-up version of the story. This will have more specific suggestions for fixing anything the editor thinks is an issue.

Structural Editing

So this one does what it says on the tin. It's all about story structure! How do the chapters work together? Should they be shorter or longer? Is more back story required? Does anything need to be expanded on? Or even deleted all together?

A structural editor will ask all of these questions and more when reviewing your manuscript. This type of review would be included in a developmental edit, however if you have concerns about your structure specifically then this is probably the best initial edit for you.

Copy Editing (Line/Mechanical Editing)

Also sometimes known as line editing or mechanical editing, copy editing is the next step ONCE you are certain that the story reads write and the structure and plot are perfect!

This is a must to bringing your story to a professional standard. This is the edit which goes into all the niggly bits to ensure consistency, clarity and cohesiveness. There are a number of items reviewed during a copy edit, which centres around spelling, grammar, misused or misunderstood words, capital letters, point of view discrepancies and dialogue.

The copy editor will look at all of the minute details which were not reviewed during the developmental editing stage and is vital to a published manuscript. You want the reader to concentrate on and engage with the story - not put up with lots of minor mistakes. Even editor's will get their writing checked by an editor!

Side note: Line editing is slightly different, though often interchangeably used when discussing copy editing. Line editing concentrates on the flow of prose and content specifically. For example, point of view, descriptions and tense, as opposed to including everything a copy edit does. This is more about the creative content, than the minute details.


The final stage of editing! This is my personal favourite - knowing I'm close to the end of editing my story is a great feeling. Proofreaders review the final version of your manuscript to double check all is perfect and fits with your style sheet (more on this in a minute).

Proofreaders are extremely meticulous because they know this is the final edit before going to print. They need to review every minute detail - the ones so small that they were missed the first time around. Most proofreaders will work from a physical print out of your story so they can clearly outline any mistakes or issues - it is easier to spot issues this way as well as easier to highlight them! Again, grammar, spelling, word breaks, typography will all be double checked to make sure it is 100% perfect.

The style sheet (told you!) is a sheet which tells the proofreader what your own style is for this particular novel. For example, if you needed to invent a word (or world) for your story, you will need to make the proofreader aware of this word and what it means. Otherwise they will be unable to check its' proper usage within the manuscript.

The proofreader will give you a marked-up version of your manuscript for you to amend any errors they have picked up on. At this stage, your story should be polished to perfection and ready to go!

There are other types of editing but these main types will get you right up to professional standard for querying or self-publishing. If you are looking to go the traditional route, the publisher will have their own editors however you are far more likely to get picked up by an agent or publisher if your story is as perfect as possible.

Need more help? See our other articles on querying or even get yourself a writing coach here!

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