Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Edits

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

Edits… Some authors love them. Some authors hate them. Either way, we all have to do edits—even those who self-publish.

Edits are usually grouped into three types, based on which aspects of the manuscript are being reviewed.
1) Content or Developmental Edits – checks plot and character development
2) Line Edits – checks the pacing, story continuity, and content
3) Copy Edits – checks for grammar, spelling, and punctuation; also verifies legal and usage questions and checks or questions facts

How many rounds of edits should you expect from a publisher? The number can vary, depending on that publisher’s procedure. Sometimes a combination of content/developmental and line edits makes up the first round of edits, with copy edits being performed in the second round. Every manuscript should go through at least two separate rounds of edits. Like writers, editors often have strengths in one area or another, so having one round will likely mean missed errors or issues.

The timetable varies greatly from publisher to publisher. Traditional print edits tend to be spaced over a longer period of time than e-pub edits because the turnaround time from submission to publication is longer. Some e-publishers have first-round edits to the author within a few weeks of acceptance, setting a week or two later as the deadline for return. Final edits may be sent as late as a week to ten days before release, with a five- to seven-day deadline. Be aware that missing a deadline can push back the release date for the book or may even nullify the contract.

The turnaround time for a freelance editor depends on her client load and speed. Be sure to ask when researching content and copy editors for self-publishing. The waiting line may be months long for an experienced, in-demand editor. Costs can vary greatly too.

The big question…
Do I have to make all the changes my editor suggests?

The publisher wants to make your book the best possible product it can be so it sells well. The editor’s job is to facilitate that process by correcting errors and suggesting ways to improve the story. However, the story belongs to the author, meaning she should have a say in changes. If a rewrite or expanded scene is requested, the editor should provide a reason for it. The editor should not rewrite or add to the book without notifying the author and receiving permission to do so. Always do a final read-through of the edited manuscript prior to publication. Unfortunately, editors have, on occasion, taken the liberty of making major changes without informing the author. While this may be grounds for breach of contract, the author is responsible for making sure her book isn’t reworked by an editor without her knowledge as well as addressing that line-crossing with the publisher. Be proactive.

Simple mistakes, like missing punctuation or a misspelled word, are usually corrected with track changes turned on. The author goes through the manuscript, track changes bubble by track changes bubble, either accepting or rejecting the changes. Yes, the author can reject changes if she believes the editor’s “correction” is, in fact, incorrect. Editors aren’t perfect. An inexperienced one may not be thoroughly versed in the publisher’s choice of house style and may make the occasional mistake. By improving her writing craft skills, the author is better prepared for edits and doesn’t have to rely only on her editors for a well-written book.

Other issues have comment bubbles to show the author where clarification, expansion, or correction is needed. If the plot has a logic lapse, the editor should comment on the specific problem. She might make a suggestion on how to fix it or simply point out the issue. The author uses this guidance to clarify, expand, or correct the point within the manuscript. Track changes makes those additions and corrections visible to the editor upon return for verification.

Just as critiques should provide polite and encouraging feedback, edits should be helpful and positive. Snarky or unconstructive comments should be brought to the attention of the publisher. Be diplomatic rather than defensive. By the same token, edits are meant to improve the story and the author needs to learn to accept critical feedback. Taking edits as a personal attack shows the author isn’t ready for honest opinions of her work. Unprofessional behavior on the part of editor or author can create an unhealthy relationship between the author, the editor, and the publisher.

The author ultimately has to decide which changes to make. If the publisher disagrees, be prepared to make some concessions or the contract may be terminated. Be open to suggestions, but remember that the story is yours.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. Hmm... wonder where you heard that bit about the book being rewritten without the author's knowledge or consent??? ;)

    1. I can't seem to recall that author's name... LOL :)