The Editorial Process

I’ve been focusing on editing for the last few days and that, along with some discussions on the National Novel Writer’s Month Facebook page, have me thinking about the editorial process. It’s a long process with many stages, and it involves many people.

The author is the first editor. The initial read through serves two purposes. First, the author is looking for the obvious typos. Second, the author should be keeping notes of any characters that don’t ring true, scenes that are out of order or need reworking, etc.

With the initial read through done the author can give the text to a few trusted readers. Their job is to check the overall story arc and make notes of anything that feels out of place, characters that ring false, etc. If they catch typos that’s great but it’s not the point on this read through.

This is the point where the author should do a rewrite, taking into account their own notes and the notes provided by the trusted readers.

After the rewrite a detailed technical edit is in order. The author should do this first, then have another reader look at it. Once this edit is complete it needs to sit for a while. This is advice I got from Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and it’s good advice.

After letting the manuscript rest it needs one last author edit and then off to the final readers. Depending on the notes from the readers the manuscript may need to go through this step (author edit and unbiased read through) an extra time.

Short stories generally need less editing because there’s less chance of character names accidently changing or the story arc getting clumsy. Longer works take more editing, and more time to work through each edit.

In my next update I’ll go over some editorial details that need to be considered in each stage and how to choose those crucial readers.


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