Be Sure of the Kind of Editing Your Fiction Manuscript Needs

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

A lot of new authors as well as veteran authors feel stuck and without direction after completing the first draft of their manuscript. The general consensus on writing and literary blogs is to send your manuscript to professional editors. However, to make the most of your editorial experience, you have to be ready. If this is your first time with a manuscript, and you are overwhelmed or feel a mental paralysis kicking in, just know that you are not alone in this. Help and motivation come to those to seek it.

  • Self-edit at least twice (Pro-tip: Look out for the most pressing issues and flag the ones you would want a professional opinion on and fix ones that you can take care of yourself, for example, delete filler words like “that”, “really”, “unless”, etc., but save the verbose prose for the editor)
  • Send your manuscript to beta readers. Read more about beta readers and their value to your manuscript here
  • Revise basis the beta readers’ suggestions
  • Determine what kind of editing you need
  • Send to professional editors

This will help save your financial resources as well as time and mental energy.

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.

― Shannon Hale

You have identified an issue:

You went over these terms and maybe Googled some to understand what a “flat character arc” or an “inconsistent point of view” means and it is clear, one or more of these issues stand out in the story and even dilute the storytelling. If such is the case, it sounds like you need Developmental Editing.

You are not sure:

You understand these issues as an objective reader but are unable to evaluate your writing in relation to these sentence-level issues. In such a case, you may benefit from a Manuscript Evaluation/Editorial Assessment.

You are confident:

After your self-edits and revisions, you feel confident that big-picture elements are set in place, and the manuscript is well-structured and strong. If so, you can move on to the prose issues

You have identified an issue:

You feel that your desired tone and writing style don’t match, or your dialogue is flat. You want the language to be crisp, and the prose to be easy to follow. It sounds like your manuscript needs a Line Edit.

You are not sure:

You understand these issues as an objective reader but are unable to evaluate your writing in relation to these structural issues. In such a case, you may benefit from a Manuscript Evaluation, used almost synonymously with Editorial Assessment.

You are confident and ready to publish:

After your self-edits and revisions, you feel confident that your manuscript is well-structured and the language is impeccable, engaging, and smooth reading. If so, jump on to a Proofread, typeset, do another proofread, and publish!

A professional editor will help bring your story closer to the writer, not just by readying it for publishing, but also by anticipating reader expectations and studying your genre’s market trends.

A good editor is someone who cares a little less about the author’s needs than the reader’s.

― Dene October
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