Copy editing

Two months ago I finished the first draft of my manuscript! Yeah me!

This is one of the rare times a writer experiences pure bliss. All this hard work, the long hours sitting at your desk – or in my case, a table in my favorite café –all the brainstorming sessions, raging against the muse of creativity that seems to have abandoned you, finally paying out. 90,000 words tightly snuggled together on previously pristine white pages, the whole picture complete at last.

You savor it for a few hours, a couple days if you’re lucky, then comes the head-spinning question – What next?

Next comes the editing. The first part you must do alone. Reading every word you’ve written, sometimes loving a scene, sometimes hating a chapter so much you want to burn the whole manuscript down.

Cut, paste, rewrite. And then rewrite some more. Cut again. Could be endless.

This is when professional editing comes in.

When you feel like you’ve done all you can short of writing a completely different novel, then it’s time to let your baby go and ask for outside help.


But what kind of professional editing should you seek?

Untangling info about the different kind of editing for your novel can be some sort of a nightmare.

Before sending my manuscript out, I spent hours on the web trying to find a clear and unbiased explanation about it, attempting to figure out what service I really needed.

Professional editing is a must if you plan to self-publish, but also if you’re looking for a literary agent. With so many manuscripts piling on their desks, yours need to be nearly perfect to catch an agent’s eye.

Professional editing is also very expensive, something you have to keep in mind before deciding on the best solution for you. I almost choked when I received the bill.

There are three main types of editing:

Proofreading. This will be sufficient for weathered authors or those who have a strong critique group. It will also be the solution for those who have already gone through a round of copyediting.

Proofreading consists of a final polish to your manuscript. It mostly focuses on grammar, spelling and formatting errors. Proofreading won’t alter your manuscript but will make it blemish free.

Copyediting. The five Cs: clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.

This is an in-depth proofreading added to a structure and factual analysis. The copyeditor might rewrite a sentence if he feels it doesn’t match the requirements of good writing. In short, he will better your manuscript. He’ll get involved. Your manuscript becomes a collegial effort. Often the copyeditor will add a manuscript assessment as well where he provides suggestions for improvement.

If it wasn’t so expensive, all authors should submit their manuscripts to copyediting because let’s be honest, no writer is perfect and two brains are always better than one.

Line edit or heavy editing. This is the mother of all editing. Usually what an agent would do to your manuscript. Proofreading and copyediting rolled into one, with massive implication on the editor’s part. Basically, the editor with his knowledge of the industry, will ask the question: what does the manuscript need to sell? How can I round up the characters, improve the writing, and alter the story before me to make it into an outstanding novel?

It almost sounds unfair because copyediting and line edit, the most thorough and costly options, most probably will lead to rewriting for the author.

More work – just what we need.

But what you’ll get coming out of this process is a novel far better than anything you could have achieved on your own.

You’ll also need to pay for proofreading again, except if you have an amazingly talented friend who can do it for free.

With self-publishing, thousands of manuscripts are flooding the cyberspace every day. If you want your novel to stand out, why not invest in its future? Check out different copyeditors and find the solution that matches your needs but don’t hesitate to pick one of these options. Even if you sell your book for 99 cents and thousands read it, they won’t likely pick up a second novel from you if the writing isn’t up to standards. Something to keep in mind.

As for me, I went with the line edit. Two reasons for my decision.

First, I’m French and English isn’t my primary language, implying that I might have made more common mistakes than the average writer.

Two, this is the first novel I’m publishing, one meant to be opus one of a serie, so I want it to be as perfect as can be. Hopefully I’ll only need light copyediting for the subsequent books. At least that’s what my bank account is praying for. No extravagant shoes for me this summer.

Legal System. Gavel over the opened law book

Three more days before I get my manuscript back. I’m as impatient as a girl on Christmas Eve. Having someone professional take a pass at my novel is a gift. Albeit a very pricy one.

Yet as the day grows near and the sentence is about to fall, I can’t help but worry. Will my aspirations be crushed in one detailed, detached manuscript assessment? Or will it motivate me to go the extra mile and reach my novel’s true potential?

Verdict this weekend, along with the complete manuscript assessment for those of you who might be interested. Positive or not, I’ll share it if it can help other writers around.

One step closer to my publishing dream. Amidst the angst and doubts, this is an exciting journey we writers have embarked upon. Let’s try not to forget it.

Read all comments
  • Got my copy editor’s review back! Over the moon!

    Hi Astrid,

    I had SO much fun reading this 🙂 You’re a wonderful storyteller and writer! I think the novel has tons of potential.

  • I think you are absolutely right about the importance of an external eye and a full development and then line edit by an experienced and qualified professional is a must.

    You are also quite right to emphasise the importance of taking time in doing your research and choosing your editor carefully as these things are not regulated. Anyone can set up their stall as a freelance editor even if they have no experience.

    All good writing is rewriting. Perhaps many, many times through. I think whether we are traditionally published or indie, we must strive for perfection. Absolutely for perfection. Unachievable, of course, but the attempt to get there will mean that we produce the best we can.

    Well done on completing your novel and now you’ve had your book returned from the editor I imagine you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you. Enjoy it. This is the opportunity to really craft your book into a rich and powerful experience for your reader.

    I look forward to finding out what happens next on your journey.

    Je tu souhaite bonne chance avec ton écriture!



    • Bonjour Austin,
      Thank you so much for your valuable input and welcome to my blog!
      I loved your article The Making of a Writer. Very insightful.
      I’ll try to enjoy my last weeks of editing. Right now I’m feeling quite nostalgic about it coming to an end. (Although I’m pretty sure I still have endless rounds of editing in my future. Just hopefully not for this novel)
      Encore merci et à bientôt!

  • I had a Manuscript Assessment by TLC in Farringdon, London. Very professional, very interesting, and I learnt a lot from it. I have since decided to completely re-write my manuscript; not their advice, but something I feel compelled to do. Like you say, we need to strive for perfection even if it’s virtually impossible to attain. I have faith in my story, but I believe I can tell it in an even better way. It’s all up to me!
    Great blog; good luck with your MS!

    • I had a manuscript assessment at TlC too! For my previous novel, which I ended up dropping unfortunately. I found it very helpful though I don’t think it can suffice on its own. But as a first step, before making corrections and moving onto a more serious copy edit, it’s great. It really helps drive your story in the right direction. Good luck with your manuscript!

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