You think you’ve got a pretty tight story, and just need it “cleaned up” before you start thinking about submitting it to a publisher or publishing it yourself. Most people will say you need a copy editor.
A copy editor is focused at the language structure level of reviewing your manuscript. So they correct:
- detail inconsistency (blue eyes sometimes, then brown eyes),
- poor sentence structure
- sentence structure that made the pacing too fast, too slow, or stilted.
- misused or weak word choices
- errors in spelling or punctuation
- inconsistent point of view
Errors like these can get in the way of clearly telling your story with the right pacing, tone, or impact.
Some copy editors will also do incidental developmental editing. If they see something that is problematic in the plot or characterization consistency, they may bring it up to you. But dev edits are a distinctly different process. Copy editors are also not proofreaders, the last step in preparing a manuscript for publication.
Get a Sample Edit
A writer should always get a sample edit from a new copy editor. Look for:
- edits that make the reading smoother
- edits that are consistent; the same rule is applied evenly in all matching situations – unless explained why not.
- editors that use Track Changes. You will NOT remember what that sentence was before the editor changed it.
Number 3 is about maintaining your voice. By showing you the changes, the editor is reminding you that this is YOUR manuscript, your story. Therefore if the edits change something that removes meaning you intended, you should be able to reject the change. Though, you should always have a specific intention with rejections. “I made this a fragment because the pace of the scene needs to be fast. He’s not thinking in full sentences right now.” Your editor will make the same sorts of comments – or they should.