In the spirit of full disclosure my fellow Extra Squeeze panel member, Jenny Jensen, is my editor. She has read and edited everything I have ever written.
She is all three rolled into one for me. Other clients will use her to proofread, copy edit and/or for developmental work.
Why do we work well together? Because a) she spends time understanding what my objective is with each book, b) she identifies shortcomings and offers suggestions on how to fix them, and c) she tells it like it is.
The last is very important to me. I don’t want to waste her time or mine, I don’t want praise when it isn’t warranted, I love it when she gives it because it’s deserved.
In my humble opinion, an author might possibly be able to copy edit (fix grammar, unwieldy phrasing, identify plot holes etc.) or proofread their work (missing words, typos) but it is almost impossible for us to properly evaluate the full content of our work.
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Good question. Answer from an editor: yes, you certainly could need all three, but the last two are critical.
A developmental editor works with an author at the macro level. The aim is to strengthen and/or develop the story. If you’ve hit a roadblock, or are uncertain of any aspect of your story and are looking for constructive feedback, or if working with an experienced fiction editor to bounce ideas is how you work best, use a developmental editor. Often my clients have several plot options in mind and with some energetic back and forth we find their direction.
The developmental process can begin at any stage. I’ve worked with clients who’ve just got a premise, characters sketches. Most have a detailed outline or a completed draft. The developmental editor focuses on plot, conflict, characterization, setting, resolution and narrative flow. A good developmental editor provides educated, useful input. It’s not about telling an author how to write the story. Developmental editing is about stimulating concepts, suggesting solutions and exposing what the writer has been blind to, always respecting an individual author’s voice.
A copy editor’s aim is to improve the writing. This is nuts and bolts editing and is done on an author’s absolute best, final draft—the one the author is confident of. Typos, incorrect grammar, punctuation, convoluted prose, poor word choice, issues with tense—anything that is incorrect or detracts from a smooth narrative flow is corrected. A copy edit is essential for a professional product, a book that stands the best chance to capture and keep readers, especially those who provide the all-critical reviews.
Proof reading is the final, micro level polish and can be done in conjunction with a copy edit. The proof reader catches errors that have been overlooked: there for their, your for you’re, to for too, etc., but also focuses on missing commas, dropped quotation marks, transposed words or letters. The list of possible errors that can slip past eyes that have been intent on story sense is scary. Again, this goes to professionalism. We’ve all read reviews that pan a book for typos. It’s those sorts of errors that can detract so heavily from an otherwise enjoyable read. Whatever else, all books should be proof read before publication. It should be law.
There are many sources to find editors. There’s me—I do all three types and I’ve got a lot of well-pleased clients! Reedsy has many free-lance contacts, as does She Writes. There are professional editor organizations: ACES has a very good list of freelance editors. Do an online search. Ask fellow writers; a personal referral is best. Be cautious of those “Publishers” that offer editorial services. A freelance editor with no vested interested in publishing your work is apt to provide more honest input.
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