Good editors are hard to find. Now, I’m not going to discuss finding good dev editors, since I’ve only ever worked with two so far. I am in need of getting a good third dev edit at some point, but yeah, not done a huge amount of dev editing.
Copy & Line Editing and Proofing…
This is the kind of editing that the majority of readers notice and will complain about. Bad word choices, sentences that lag, misuse of words or malopropisms or bad grammar, that kind of thing.
Now, previously, proofing used to only reviewing the physical proof, making sure that formatting and line breaks and the like had not changed during the process. Some minor misspelling or whatever they caught.
These days, proofing generally means a closer readthrough of the final draft, looking for errors or missing words as well as formatting issues. They can and do step into line editing (and sometimes copy) and even when you ask them not to, some proofers (often editors who are adding ‘proofing’ to their resume even though it’s a different skillset) can overstep.
This can and will cause problems, from extra wasted time reviewing too many edits to ‘fixing’ stylistic choices already fought over with your original copy/line editor.
HOWEVER, a good proofer can make sure your final draft is as clear of errors as likely. Still means you’ll likely have 10-15 errors in a 100k book.
How to find a Good Editor
Here’s what I used to do.
I sent off my sample to the editor and made sure to include 3 to 4 known errors (varied errors from basic punctuation error to grammar and a malapropism). That way, when the edit returned, I was able to verify if they caught the error.
Now, I write relatively clean copy (especially after my 2nd edit pass); so I could do that and see only a dozen or so edits in the entire 1000 word sample.
If you don’t write clean, if your original work is full of errors (and as a new writer, it might be) – they might not catch the errors you introduced because of all the other errors they’re fixing.
Generally, most good editors will find a good 90%+ of errors in a manuscript. The more work there is, the greater the number of errors they might miss (in quantity, not %!).
Things to Worry About with (Copy & Line) Editors
- Over-observance of grammatical rules. A good editor will understand when you (or your character) is being ‘voicy’, and when to NOT adjust for that.
- They don’t know your genre and doesn’t understand the tropes (particularly a problem with fantasy and LitRPG or even hard scifi, but romance can be an issue too). As an example – having an editor complain about the use of HUD or kiting monsters….
- They don’t use Track Changes but edit direct without it
- They make changes to plots or scenes directly, writing in the scenes for you rather than making suggestions of those things
- They miss deadlines and don’t communicate about that beforehand
- They ignore instructions in text (comments, etc.) or in discussions beforehand
Signs of a Good Editor
- They explain the changes they are making (the first instance or two via a comment) so that you learn what is happening
- They leave positive comments so that you know what you did well too (and not just badly!)
- They note your idiosyncrasies and might comment about overuse of certain props of writing (e.g. overuse of and, and, and in run-on sentences even if it’s part of your writing voice) but will not directly change it.
- They keep finding more and more (new) errors as you progress
- They are able to explain why certain aspects of your work is not working (information flow, lack of ‘depth’ via lack of sense immersion, starting too slow/too early, pacing issues, lack of character voice, blank slate characters, etc.)
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