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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

Spiralling Out of Control by Michelle Dennis Evans

Stephanie’s family have moved from Sydney to Toowomba, a move that forces her to leave her best friend, her school and her passion in life: dance lessons. While the rest of the family settle easily into their new lives, Stephanie is teased and has trouble fitting in to her new school until Jason, one of the senior boys, asks her out. Stephanie falls in love with Jason, and doesn’t see the way he is manipulating her to the point where she has turned her back on everything she once valued. Her descent is not helped by her parents, who seem to have little time for her and no appreciation of the difficulties she is facing.

Stephanie is a well-written but challenging read. I think the strong and consistent third-person point of view has captured Stephanie’s descent into mistreatment and exploitation very clearly, as well as detailing the consequences of her decisions. It’s an interesting story, because although Stephanie was forced in some respects, this was still clearly a consequence of the decisions she made, a series of seemingly-insignificant decisions that compound in an almost-ruined life. And she loved him, which was her excuse for going along with everything he wanted. I don’t entirely understand this mindset, but I know it exists, and Stephanie illustrates it well.

This is not a pretty story, nor is it an easy read. There are several unsavoury characters and a number of scenes where Stephanie, Jason and others are falling headlong into sin (to use Christianese—a trap Stephanie does not fall into). It’s not graphically portrayed in that there is little or no description. But the images are still there. In fact, parts of Stephanie are a study in how much can be implied with a few well-chosen words.

Stephanie’s descent is very well portrayed. But what is missing for me, as a reader, is Stephanie’s change of heart. In my view, the resolution came too quickly and conveniently to feel real. Despite this, Stephanie is well worth reading.

I proofread Spiralling Out of Control for Michelle Dennis Evans, and have subsequently edited the sequel (and have just had a sneak peak at the final book in the trilogy). I’m happy to say that the plot lines will all resolve themselves, but you’ll have to read all three books!

 

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.

The Greenfield Legacy by Rose Dee, Amanda Deed, Meredith Resce and Paula Vince

Mattie’s life changed when her fiancé didn’t come back from Vietnam. She was forced to give up their baby daughter for adoption, and has never forgotten that despite her marriage to (and divorce from) Doug, the birth of her second daughter, Connie, and her successful management of the family vineyard, the Greenfield Estate. But now she has been contacted by the daughter she gave up.

Connie has always resented her mother for breaking up their family, but neither her husband, Dennis, nor her daughter, Brooke, understand her drive to succeed. When her mother calls and asks her to visit, she resists but goes at the insistence of Dennis and Brooke. But when Connie arrives, she finds more than she expected.

Brooke is currently studying fashion design, and it looks like this will be the fourth course she drops out of. She jumps at the chance to visit Grandma Mattie and the Greenfield Estate—and to reconnect with Aiden, the boy she left behind. But will their history be too much to get over?
Navy is Annette’s daughter, but hasn’t seen her mother since she abandoned their family years ago. Now Annette is ill and has asked to see Navy again, to reconnect with her daughter. When Navy arrives, she meets the grandmother she never knew she had—and a new aunt and cousin who are not pleased to meet her.

Four women, with four very different backgrounds, all related in some way to Annette, and all struggling to understand what those relationships mean. Will they be able to move past their issues to restore broken relationships and find love? The Greenfield Legacy is a fascinating mix of relationships and romance, with an underlying Christian message, and its’ share of humour.

At first I thought The Greenfield Legacy was going to be a four-in-one novella collection, but it isn’t. It’s a single novel, with each of the four points of view written by a well-known Australian Christian fiction author. I have to really congratulate them on how well the stories fit together – I was able to pick who wrote which bit (will you?), but if I hadn’t known, I would have thought it was all written by one person.

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.