Content Editing – The Nuts and Bolts by Cassiel Knight
Posted by SeeJanePublish
As you may/may not remember, I edit for several publishing houses. I’m also the Senior Editor at Champagne Book Group, a role which I’m loving. Since I’ve begun working as a content editor, I’ve discovered something interesting. Well, I’ve discovered a lot of interesting things, actually all of which, at some point, I’m sure I’ll share with you. <grin> In particular, I’ve learned that a lot of authors (not all) have no idea or concept of what a content/developmental editor does.
While there are some variances, most content/developmental editors are similar. For me, I’m a content editor (or a developmental editor) who does some line editing. I know grammar but I am not an expert by any stretch. This is why I content edit and why I’m good at it.
Because I’ve noticed a lot of confusion over the past couple of weeks, I thought I’d write a post to educate writers about what a content/developmental editor (CD editor) actually does. I’m hoping this will help authors understand their CD editor’s role and why we ask authors to do the things we do.
So, let’s start with definitions. Why? ‘Cause I love them so deal with it. <grin>
Anyway, one definition of editing is: the process of selecting and preparing written…used to convey information through the process of correction, condensation, organization and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete work. Mamishev, Alexander, Williams, Sean, Technical Writing for Teams: The STREAM Tools Handbook, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, John Wiley & Sons. Inc., Hoboken, 2009, p.128.
Sounds fancy doesn’t it? And I think you’d agree that it fits with your understanding of editing overall.
However, the levels of editing is where it gets trickier and where I think the disconnect happens.
Most writers understand editing for the basics: grammar, punctuation, misspelled words and format. While CD editors address these as well, this is NOT our focus. That is the copy/line editor’s focus. But, most of us just can’t help doing some of it. Hey, we are there, why not?
But CD, if done right, goes deeper. Here are some things CD editors look at:
- Point of View – Is it consistent throughout? How much head-hopping is being done? Is the POV clear to the reader?
- Plot – D1oes it make sense? Is there a beginning, middle and end?
- Characterization – Are the characters real to the reader? Does the reader know them or simply know about them?
- Pacing – Does it fit the story? Is it too fast or too slow?
- Overall – Is the author telling the story or showing?
- Redundancies – Is the author repeating words, phrases or thoughts?
- Wordiness – Are five words being used when three will do?
- Sentence structure – Is there a mix of sentence length and sentence starts to keep story flowing and moving?
- Lack of focus – Does the story ramble with no purpose? Is it episodic?
- Tone – Does the tone of the story match the genre or theme? Does a mystery feel mysterious? A romance have romance?
- Word Choice – Is the author using the right word in the right way? Is the author using words incorrectly in order to avoid using similar words?
- Tense – Is the tense correct throughout the manuscript?
Like everyone involved in the publishing process, the goal of the CD is to help you make the story the best it can possibly be while staying within house style and general concepts of good writing. Not perfect—no one does perfect.
All traditional publishing venues (New York, small press and digital first/only presses) run authors through this process. Vanity and self-published authors SHOULD do both but they aren’t required to. However, for the others, house authors are required to go through the process. Caveat—Yes, I’m aware there are certain big name authors who actually have it written in their contract they won’t be edited (IMO, that’s just ridiculous). I’m not talking about them. They aren’t you. I’m talking about the average author.
The CD is the first level of the editing process. We are the substantive editors, not copy, not proofreaders. It’s a clear distinction. No one level is better than the other but they are different. Authors should make sure to understand what each one does. It will help make getting your book ready for publication go smoother with less stress.
What do you think? Did you know the difference? What, to you, makes a good content editor?
Posted on September 19, 2012, in General and tagged authors, Cassiel Knight, Champagne Book Group, copy editing, copy editor, developmental editing, Publishers, publishing, writers. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.