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Dear Editor | Did My Editor Do Their Job Properly?

Dear Editor | Did My Editor Do Their Job Properly?

I recently saw a comment in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of. A fiction author was asking about editing standards, in relation to her recently released first novel. She said her editor picked up 50 to 60 mistakes in her 55,000-word novel, but the author had since found at least twelve errors the editor didn’t pick up, including mistakes like missing words.

That concerns me.

I’m not concerned that the editor apparently missed twelve mistakes. Twelve mistakes in a 55,000-word novel means the novel is 99.98% error-free.

I’d be happy with that.

I’m concerned because I don’t think the author understood the editing process enough to know that an editor who picks up less than 60 errors in a 55,000-word novel might not be an editor—at least, not in the way this author was thinking of editing. I’d expect to pick up this number of mistakes in a manuscript assessment. It’s possible this editor thought she was the developmental editor, not the copyeditor. If so, grammatical errors and missing words weren’t her job.

It’s possible the editor was claiming to be a copyeditor. If so, the author should have known from the low number of mistakes that the editor hadn’t done a thorough job.

(Although she should have been able to tell this from the sample edit. Always get a sample edit, even if you have to pay for it. If you’d like to request a free sample edit from me, contact me via the contact form on my About page.)

For example, I’ve recently completed a copyedit of a 40,000-word manuscript where I had over 2,300 queries or suggested changes. Most were small changes—remove a space here, add a comma there. Sometimes it takes two changes to correct one mistake.

My later proofread of the same manuscript had 300 suggestions, many of which related to the changes I’d suggested in the copyedit, but some where things I’d missed the first time around (often because I was focussing on another problem in that sentence or paragraph).

And that was a light edit—this is the author’s tenth published book, and her first six were with a major traditional publisher. She knows how to write. She’s been edited before. She expects this level of editing.

Dear author, if you only hired one editor, and she found less than 60 mistakes, then she missed things. A lot of things.

Let’s Talk About Editing

There are several different types of editing. A book from a traditional publisher will go through at least three rounds of editing, and several rounds of proofreading. Different editors use different terms, but here are the basic levels of editing:

Structural Editing

A high-level analysis of the plot, structure, characters, genre, and theme. The feedback is delivered in the form of an editorial letter, highlighting strengths and pinpointing areas the author needs to work on. Some authors use alpha readers or beta readers or critique partners for structural editing: you edit mine, and I’ll edit yours. The main point is that the editor (or critique partner) can go through the whole manuscript in one or two sittings, to get the big picture.

Developmental Editing

The editor works through the manuscript using Track Changes, commenting on big-picture issues like plot, characterisation, point of view, and showing vs. telling. This delivers similar feedback to the Structural Edit, except the author can see exactly where the problem is. The Structural Edit might say there is a problem with point of view. The Developmental Edit highlights each and every time there is a point of view violation. Some authors will use a critique group for this level of editing, swapping one or two chapters on a regular (e.g. weekly) basis.

Line Editing

Once the overall plot and characters work, the line editor gets to work. The Line Edit again uses Track Changes, and focuses on how the writing can be improved to deliver more emotion, more power. This includes things like cutting cliches, repetition, and telling, and reworking sentences and paragraphs to show the story the best way possible.

Copyediting

This is what most people think of as “editing”. It’s going through the manuscript (again using Track Changes) to focus on the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It may also pick up or correct issues that either weren’t picked up during line editing, or have been introduced during revision. Some authors call this stage “proofreading” and work with a small group of nitpicky beta readers.

Proofreading

We finally get to proofreading. By this point, the novel should have been through several different paid and unpaid editors, beta readers, and/or critique partners. But there are always gremlins who sneak in, and that’s the proofreader’s job: to find and eliminate those last remaining gremlins. Ideally, the proofreader hasn’t read the book before, which means they have fresh eyes and will read the words on the page, not the words they remember being on the page last time.

Remember …

A good editor won’t just edit. They’ll tell why they are suggesting each change, and cite rules where applicable (e.g. . A good editor is a teacher and a coach as well as an editor. This is especially true for structural, developmental, and line editors. If you’re not getting that feedback, maybe it’s time to consider a different approach.

So did your editor do her job properly? I suspect not. But I can’t say for certain, because I don’t know what type of editing you hired her for. And that’s on

The Celtic Stone by Nick Hawkes

Chris Norman finds himself in possession of a strange object after almost losing his life in an airplane crash. It’s a celtic cross, and this leads Chris on a journey to the Isle of Skye, where he has inherited the croft his forebears farmed, and where he still has one distant relation. That relation is a small boy, Ruan, and Chris arrives on Skye to find himself the next-of-kin to a complete stranger.

Morag Daniel has retreated to her family home on the Isle of Skye after being blinded four years ago. She has taken Ruan in following the death of his father, and is suspicious of this newcomer, but finds herself drawn to him as they work together to keep Ruan in his home community, find the story behind The Celtic Cross, and fight for their island family.

The twisting and turning plot is one of the strengths of The Celtic Stone. The other is the characters. These are, without exception, well-drawn with real personalities: likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. The plot has complexity not always found in Christian fiction, and the writing is strong and occasionally beautiful. Nick Hawkes has a background as a research scientist and a pastor, and both come through in his writing. The Christian aspects have the ring of a pastor and teacher, and there is a real gentleness in the way different characters experience and present their faith journeys.

The Celtic Stone is the first book I have edited by Nick Hawkes, and you’ll have to believe me when I say the next two have equally compelling characters, with strong suspense plots, a solid Christian message and a touch of romance. There seems to be a small but growing readership for Christian novels with unique settings, and The Celtic Stone is a valuable addition to that genre. You can find out more about Dr Nick Hawkes at his website.

Dead Man’s Journey by Phillip Cook

Aaron decides to investigate when father goes missing during his daily run and is found, dead, twenty kilometres away from home—and missing a finger. The investigation leads him to suspect a link between his father’s death and the mysterious ‘vanishings’ of homeless men in Brisbane.

His investigation also leads him back to Mackenzie, his childhood best friend and the girl he left behind. He knows what Mackenzie believes about what happens when we die. She’s a Christian. He isn’t. But when Mackenzie vanishes, Aaron finds himself re-evaluating his beliefs about life and death, angels and demons—and God.

The story is a Christian thriller with a speculative/science fiction backdrop and a hint of romance. It is set in and around Brisbane, Australia, in the near future, has a well-constructed plot and a host of interesting characters (I particularly liked the group of homeless men for their humour). It’s an exciting story that kept me thinking ‘what’s going to happen next?’, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Dead Man’s Journey is Phillip Cook’s debut novel, and I will look forward to reading more of his work (and not just because I edited this. I really enjoyed it). Recommended for those who like Christian Speculative fiction by authors such as Frank Peretti, and for anyone who wants to support Australasian authors.

Truly Free by Carol Preston

Truly Free is the fourth and final book in the Turning the Tide series, in which Carol Preston writes fictional accounts based on her own family history (which explains some of the odd character names!). The story has been researched extensively, and that gives it  a sense of time and place that isn’t always present in historical fiction.

Bill has been found dead in mysterious circumstances, and granddaughter Betsy wants answers. In conjunction with her aunt Beth, Betsy finds there is a mystery to be solved, misunderstandings to clear up and major secrets to be revealed before everyone can truly be free.

The underlying theme of the story is freedom in Christ, and Betsy and her father, Nipper, are  the two most important characters in understanding this: Betsy, because she has  to forgive her father; and Nipper, because he has to understand the nature of
God in order to forgive himself and Betsy.

A New Resolution by Rose Dee

Anika Demeur has always been determined to escape the curse of teenage pregnancy and solo parenthood, but still finds she is repeating her mother’s mistakes. Together with her son, Kye, she accepts a job on Resolution Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Life is good, until a letter—and the arrival of a rich Texan—threaten everything.

Nate is on a mission to fulfill his mother’s last wish. But he didn’t anticipate that keeping this promise would mean getting involved in illegal fishing, a murder—and an unexpected attraction to an exasperating woman who doesn’t want anything to do with him.

Now, there is a small chance I’m biased here (because I worked with Rose Dee on the editing), but I really enjoyed A New Resolution.  The characters are strong, the plot interesting, and I especially like the way the Christian elements were integrated into the story, in a way that felt quite realistic, without preaching or moralising.

I also enjoyed the developing relationship between Ani and Nate, the way the attraction was developed into a friendly relationship before either of them acknowledged that there might be something more than mere attraction. And the first kiss was great.

Australian Christian fiction isn’t perhaps as polished as the American novels coming out of the major Christian publishing houses, but this (at least to me) seems more real. In real life, things aren’t always perfect and people are a little rough around the edges, and A New Resolution reflects the Australian spirit well. It is an enjoyable and original novel, with a unique and beautiful setting.

A New Resolution is the final book in the Resolution trilogy, following Back to Resolution and Beyond Resolution. However, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Recommended.