So, What Type of Editing Do I Need?

(Wait, there are types?)


All right. Your very first work-in-progress is speeding, or chugging, or limping along (all of which is okay, by the way, as long as your book is moving forward).

You know your beloved masterpiece needs a little spit and polish, and you’ve decided that hiring a professional editor is the way to go. You’ve collected a few names from fellow authors, you’ve narrowed it down to a few candidates, and you’ve reached out to each one for quotes. You’re feeling knowledgeable. Wise. Hopeful.

And then, one by one, each candidate comes back to you with a question you didn’t see coming.


“What kind of editing do you need?”


And you freeze like a deer in headlights.

Maybe you knew there were different kinds of editing, but weren’t clear on which was which. Or, maybe you thought editing was editing, and that was that. No worries. We all start out not knowing.


In this two-part article, we will go over the four basic types of editing, so you can feel even more knowledgeable, wise, and hopeful, and you can be confident that you know what your manuscript needs.


Part One


Side note: some editors use the terms “line editing” and “copy editing” in reverse from the way I use them here. However, while they may be called different things by different editors, these four types of editing are generally the same across the board. As long as your editor is clear with you about the type of editing they will be doing, and what exactly it entails, the terms don’t matter all that much.


Let’s pretend your book is a house, and you are building it from the ground up. The foundation of the house is the idea/conceptualization. The outline (if you do such a thing) is the architectural blueprint. So, you conquer those, and next comes:


Developmental Editing/Framing Out

This type of editing deals with the framework of your story. The biggies. Structure. Plot. Character development. Pinch points. Conclusion. The support beams on which your whole story will rest. If your book were a house, the developmental editor would be like the contractor coming in to suggest the best place to put the kitchen, where to rough in the plumbing, and where you will need load-bearing walls.


The developmental editor will likely create a report for you, and may make extensive notations throughout your manuscript.


Copy Editing/Interior Design

This type of editing deals with the medium-sized issues. Large plot holes. Character inconsistencies. Timeline problems. There is a lot of cutting and pasting at this stage.


If your book were a house, the copy editor would be like an interior designer who comes in when the walls are up, and the house is functional, livable, and nice to look at, but still a little rough, and suggests a new paint color or two, sofas that better fit the scale of the room, better window treatments, and accessories that tie the whole look together.

The copyeditor will cut, paste, and strike out large sections, and write copious notes. Don’t be alarmed by all the red. It will all work out in the end.


This takes care of the bigger and more fundamental editing types. In part two, we’ll discuss the nitty- gritty editing types, which are the most common types, and are really what come to most writers’ minds

when they think about editing.

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