The different levels of editing

You’ve probably been advised that before you contact an editor, you need to determine what type of editing it is you’re looking for. If you’ve searched online for definitions of the different levels of editing available, it’s possible that you’ll be more confused than ever – even editors can’t agree!

What matters most is that you’re clear about what services are being offered, and what you’ll be getting. With that in mind, here’s a brief explanation of what I mean when I talk about the different stages of editing.

Developmental editing

Developmental editing looks at the big-picture elements of your novel. Is your plot plausible and compelling? Are your characters believable? Does your story drag at times and zip by too fast at others? Will your readers feel satisfied by the ending?

I’ll look at your work objectively and make suggestions as to how you can develop your story, offering constructive and honest feedback in the form of an editorial report, or manuscript critique. And if you want a full developmental edit, I’ll also highlight issues and make comments and suggestions throughout the manuscript itself.

Line and copy-editing

Put simply, line editing – also known as stylistic editing – focuses on improving your writing by ensuring that it’s artful in the way that it flows, and correct and consistent in the way that it’s presented. Copy-editing aims to correct the writing by making sentences and paragraphs clear in meaning and consistent in style. So, you can see that the lines between the two are somewhat blurred.

This is why I offer a combination of line and copy-editing, balanced according to the individual needs of the text, which takes place before proofreading and involves an in-depth treatment of the text at word and sentence level. If your budget only allows for one editing process, my advice would be to make it this one.

Proofreading

Proofreading is the final polish, enabling you to publish with confidence knowing that your readers aren’t going to be distracted by irritating typos and spelling mistakes. If your work has already been professionally edited and revised, this is the last thorough review where I’ll look for any errors that have slipped through or been more recently introduced.

Proofreading is often used as a generic editing term, so many writers think they want their work proofread when in fact they want a copy-edit. If you’re not sure, please send me a sample and I’ll be happy to advise you on what level of editing is most appropriate.

‘I chose Nicky to do a developmental edit of my manuscript on the basis of her qualifications and clear website. As this is my first novel, I was unsure about what to expect. I shouldn’t have been worried. Nicky went the extra mile to thoroughly read my nearly 100K novel. She picked apart my work, breaking it down to see how the elements worked, and then brought them back together to assess the whole. The process and outcome were extremely informative: she had spot-on observations and comments, summarised themes and storylines so clearly, and more than that, she suggested something central about the story which had not occurred to me. This was an investment I’m glad I made and would engage Nicky’s services again without hesitation.’

Collette Ridley Fard

Author, Running Back

‘Nicky stepped in as my developmental editor in the middle of my mystery series. If I weren't already committed to my other editor, I would definitely hire Nicky for the rest of the series. She juggled the big-picture story and red-herring details with skill and grace. Her comments were precise, constructive, and encouraging. Nicky's insights into my characters were so spot on that I laughed out loud when I read her memos! I recommend her without hesitation to anyone who wants a full manuscript assessment and edit.’

Rose Donovan

Author, The Mystery of Ruby’s Stiletto (Ruby Dove Mysteries Book 4)

‘Nicky’s editorial report on my novel’s manuscript was impressive; her comments were extensive, detailed and concise, while proposing practical solutions to various issues. She is meticulous, professional and caring. I can’t recommend Nicky’s services highly enough.’

Ioannis Sideris

Author, A Fall in Paris

‘My second novel, Rodanthe's Gift, is historical fiction based in Greece during Ottoman oppression. As a sequel to Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, it develops three characters I came to know and love, despite their flaws. After working on the new story for over two years, self-doubt held me back from completion. Nicky used a questionnaire to understand my aims and concerns and then provided clear and logical analysis to underpin her constructive feedback with welcome suggestions for reworking. Thanks to Nicky's objective appraisal I gained confidence and motivation to continue. Once completed, Nicky conducted the line/copy-edit within agreed timescales, ensuring clarity and mutual understanding with a style sheet. This led to a thorough, empathetic and collaborative editing experience that I look forward to repeating.’

Yvonne Payne

Author, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa; Rodanthe's Gift

‘I have now published two books which, without Nicky’s skilful intervention, I know would still be resting in the back of my hard drive. When we first started working together she took my very raw manuscript and, having read it, convinced me that she could make it fit to publish. I remember feeling a surge of confidence from her encouragement and set to work with a will on the corrections and suggestions she provided to me. I have no hesitation in recommending Nicky’s editorial administrations to both established writers and those setting off on the tortuous path of writing. She can, and will, make that path much easier.’

William V Kelly

Author, Until the Fat Man Sings; Place in the Sun

‘I contacted Nicky Taylor to discuss my first book. Within a few minutes of our conversation I knew I had found the right person to help me. Highly recommended. Professional & prompt.’

Jimmy Callaghan

Author, Find Me Fame

‘I’m indebted to Betterwrite for the time and diligence they gave to my novel. I particularly appreciated the observations from Nicky during the development edit, which both tightened the narrative and gave it greater coherence.’

Nick Corble

Author, The Bond (or Last Man Standing)

‘Nicky has written three editorial reports for Betterwrite Literary Consultants and all have been excellent: penetrating, comprehensive and judicious. In the field of fiction she clearly has a high level of professional ability as a development editor. She is also co-operative and reliable, and good to work with. I would recommend her without hesitation.’

Rob Matthews

Director, Betterwrite.com, Literary Consultants

‘I couldn’t have been more pleased with Nicky’s editing of A Crazy French Rhythm – my first attempt at a novel. It came in exactly when she said it would, and although I was reasonably pleased with what I had written, Nicky had tightened it up beautifully, allowing the narrative to flow far more easily. Her editorial style sheet was incredibly helpful, and her observations of my writing habits embarrassingly accurate! Including overuse of exclamation marks!’

Carolyn Ross

Author, A Crazy French Rhythm

‘I just went over all your corrections to prepare the first few layouts. And I just want to let you know how glad I am to have you! Your suggestions are always great and really feel like “my language” in the end. That’s really taking pressure off from the hectic process – thanks for that support and your great work!’

Stefanie Köhler

Publisher & Editor | CUVÉE & other media