A Good Edit is the Core of a Good Story

Recently, I did a complete edit on Marsha Gabel Berman’s new memoir entitled, The Possibilities Are Endless. It is currently doing well on Amazon and Smashwords while being distributed by Ingram Spark. Marsha is a debut writer and wisely chose to have her well-conceived story to reach its readers with a stunning tale and correct format. I, for one, enjoyed my part of the project because she was willing to go the distance in seeing that everything was done well to make it worthy of attention.

I chose to use all the following means to make the book soar in its ability to interest people enough to be drawn into the saga.

At its core, I always look at the editing journey as having three key phases:

1. Story editing

2. Copy editing

3. Professional editing

Each phase has its own unique objective and will develop and improve your book in its
own way. Let’s explore each in more depth.

Story editing

The story edit is the most comprehensive edit you’ll do on your manuscript. During this phase, you’ll take a comprehensive look at the structure of your manuscript and the story you chose to tell.

Story editing ensures you present a powerful narrative by taking the “big-picture approach” to your manuscript. For fiction, a story edit focuses on the cohesive development of your characters, plot, and settings within the overall story arc. It is your best way to prepare for publishing. This is when you rework your characters, plot, and settings to ensure that the storyline and narrative flow smoothly while every scene contributes to the story’s purpose.

When you’re writing fiction, story editing means looking at the characters and asking why each one is in the book. It means looking for patterns, finding emotion, evaluating the structure of scenes, structuring chapters, and word count. It means testing the setting against the plot.

Following a story edit, you will almost always end up rewriting scenes in your manuscript to improve content and structure. This revision is the most time-consuming step.

Your effort, however, should be spent on evaluating and rewriting your draft to ensure that your story is powerful and ready for line editing, copy editing, formatting, proofreading, and ultimately, publishing. All of these types of editing are critical for a successfully developed story.

While story editing mainly refers to fiction manuscripts, a similar process exists for
nonfiction works as in Marsha’s case. If you’re writing nonfiction, this stage is known as developmental or substantive editing. During this time, you’ll review your overall presentation to make sure your argument makes sense and is cohesive.

Copy editing

This phase of the edit includes line editing and copy editing. Line editing is where you
really drill down into the technical elements of writing to include grammar, word choice, and sentence structure. If story editing is about putting together your story, copy editing is about the most effective use of language to get your idea out of your head and into your readers’ minds.

A basic copy edit includes checking your grammar, spelling, and punctuation for accuracy; ensuring consistency in your writing, word choices, style, and compositional
spacing; and eliminating jargon and repetitious words. It’s your last edit before you format your work and proceed to proofreading and publishing.

Line editing, on the other hand, is evaluating and correcting the tone, style, and consistency of your writing while also checking your basic spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It also includes checking your word usage for crutch words, overused words, and misused words, such as “very” in the story.

Professional editing

Once you’ve performed a story edit and copy edit as a final self-edit, it’s time to prepare to give your manuscript to a professional editor. I performed this task for Marsha.

Sending an unedited manuscript to an editor is like showing up to a job interview in your pajamas having just rolled out of bed. No matter how qualified and clever you are, the publisher is going to have trouble getting past your bedhead and PJs to see your
underlying skill.

When your manuscript goes to a professional editor, you want that person to focus on
digging deep to find the most constructive ways to optimize your work. If they are wasting their time fixing basic writing errors and story inconsistencies, you won’t be getting the best of their time or yours.

Do not send a manuscript to an editor until you feel like it’s essentially publish-ready.
Even when you think it is polished and perfect, a fresh set of eyes will see all kinds of
issues that have become invisible to you.

Why can’t you see the problems yourself? The human brain is always trying to be helpful by filling in missing information. You need to feel a succession of images,
and your brain links them all together and provides the missing information that turns
them into a movie in your mind.

The same thing happens when you’re reading, especially if it’s your own writing. I’m
sure you have experienced the situation where you’ve carefully proofed a page of your
writing and you still missed an obvious typo. That’s because your brain guesses what’s supposed to be there and replaces it in your head with the correct word or spelling. This is why the fresh perspective of a professional is so essential.

Types of professional editing

You can hire an editor for specific types of editing. For instance, a professional line editor will conduct a thorough examination of the language in your work. Your line
editor will take a critical look at your manuscript’s writing flow, language usage, and
character development and make suggestions that ensure you’re communicating your
story effectively while maintaining your voice.

Here are some fixes a line editor might make:

• Correction of awkward sentence constructions.
• Suggestions to make sentences crisper and tighter.
• Review of key aspects of your manuscript, like narrative and structure.

A copy editor will correct continuity issues in your story to make sure your manuscript is free of technical problems or major loose ends that will confuse your readers. They’ll highlight typographical and spelling mistakes, fix grammatical and linguistic errors, and make certain you’re using the correct punctuation marks.

But wait! What about proofreading?

By the time your story is at the proofreading stage, you’re no longer editing. Proofreading checks your formatted, edited document before publication. Proofing your completed material is your final step.

Your editor will be ready to help you with this final aspect of preparing your manuscript for publishing. A professional proofreader, also known as the last set of eyes, will perform a final review to fix any remaining mechanical and grammar issues before your book is printed and published.

Remember: All of the aspects of editing are critical. In fact, proofreading is not a structural edit. It is the final look at the book which focuses on eliminating minor
mistakes. Any manuscript that you send to a proofreader should be nearly perfect.

Give this system a try and your work will be as highly regarded as Marsha’s book is as it grows in popularity!

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