Editing A Manuscript

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Many want to get published and release a great book but all too often, start with the wrong steps in the process or worse still, completely skip the most important step. It is critical to note that an excellent copyedit isn’t the first step in the process of bringing a manuscript to publication. Nor is it the second or third steps, it is the last step. Yes; that hard going over for grammar, punctuation and spelling, makes up the final step before getting published.

Long before this last step, manuscripts need in-depth, comprehensive, substantive editing; the kind that deals with the nuts and bolts of organization and structure, of plotting and pacing, of characterization, of voice and tone, along with all of the stylistic elements and overall substance that go into creating a great read. Whether fiction or nonfiction, every book needs the type of thorough work that only a developmental editor can provide.

So many elements make up a great book, and each of these elements needs hard attention. Are the characters real, flesh-and-bone, multi-sided people? Does the reader know them once the story has taken off or only know 'about' them? Do they interact in believable ways or are they over the top, destroying verisimilitude? Does the main character grow and evolve without being a leopard who changes its spots?

Does the pacing fit the storyline? Different genres require different pacing, and it helps to work with an editor who understands the market and the genre in which you’re writing. Does one chapter flow into the next, building to a climax, making for a satisfying read? Does the book “fit” together? Is it all of one piece? Does it have a cohesive beginning, middle and end, or does the plotline fizzle and collapse or leave huge holes that are never bridged?

Is there a point to the book? Does the language sing, or limp along in fits and spurts? Is the writer telling the story, or is the writer creating, showing, evoking for the reader?

A book is much more than the sum of its parts. It is its own entity — a new being that is formed by those parts, and something more. Something intangible. To fashion a great book one must make sure all of the individual elements work together in a synergy of words and emotions, painting pictures and evoking senses to put the reader right into the story. To accomplish that, a writer must first create, then rewrite, then revise; and nothing in the world helps one do that better than working with an experienced developmental editor — one who knows the pitfalls and problems, and can help writers navigate around and through the turbulence.

The very best developmental editors can not only pinpoint the problems, in all areas but most importantly, be able to show you how to fix those problems. No writer wants an editor to rewrite his or her book; that’s not an editor’s job. An editor’s job is to help a writer to fashion the very best book his or hers can be. To bring out the gem from under whatever is burying its shine. To make sure the arc of the story contains all of the elements that bring forth a great read. An editor’s real job is to teach the elements of great fiction and nonfiction while doing all of the above. It takes an excellent touch to be able to accomplish this while maintaining the integrity of the writer’s voice.

A great book is born out of great developmental editing. That’s what makes for a great read.