• Bill

Editing Your Novel: Stern Advice

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Subtitle: Fear of Finalizing,


Led't's see if I can get through this post cleanly. Newbies as we are, I'm sure we're all conversant with the terms developmental edit, line edit, and proof reading. These are what you do when you've already been through umpteen drafts of your novel. But understanding these terms and really coming to grips with them is like being able to spell "terror" vs. really experiencing terror.


First principle: These are not things you do once. Baby Doe has seen at least 15 developmental edits and beta reads, most by experienced editor/writers. BD could probably use a few more. That's basically for plot, characters, narrative pull, emotion, pacing, arcs, believability, and probably a whole lot of other stuff.


Line edits are never ending. You can evaluate each sentence or fragment in your book for sound, rhythm, clarity, subtext, symbolism, setting, mood, tone, theme, metaphors, repetitions, characterization, appropriateness, fluidity, anachronisms, and probably a whole lot of other stuff, Then you do it again for paragraphs and scenes.


By the time all that is done, the next step is the design of the interior. You, the author, choose among hardback, paperback, trade paperback, and ebook. You have a say in the choice of font and the size of font, And that's it for your involvement here.

Only after all that comes the proofread, aka copy edit. Publishers are fussy about this, Mine allows me to make 60 changes that are not their fault. After that they start charging for the time for the copy editor who has to emplace the changes in the already well crafted interior design. What's their fault?--for example, at the end of a line, splitting a one syllable word, like "sto-ne," or forgetting to close quotes at the end of a character's comment. Because the publisher has already done a professional copy edit, and should have caught most of these things.


But now, the author apprehends that his/her/their opus grande is about to be immortalized, remaining warts and all. So the author (me) starts fixing everything going way back to developmental and line editing, judging fault for each correction (mostly mine not theirs). The proof sheet is a tedious beast looking like the figure below, which is just a small part of my fourth complete re- re- re- proof reading of poor Baby Doe.


So the Second Principle is simply a restatement of the first principle: Fix every damn thing before you get to proofing your novel's innards. Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.


How did Jane Austen with no typewriter, and TS Eliot with no computer, ever come out with a clean copy?



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