You’ve completed your manuscript. A big congrats! Did you celebrate? I hope so, but now it’s time to get back to work. Editing. 

But how do you know which type of editing you need? Let’s begin with an analogy that might help better understand:

You’ve sustained multiple injuries in a car accident.
Should the doctor focus on the brain swelling and bleeding first …
Or just sew up your head gash?

Assuming you chose brain swelling and bleeding, the same applies to your story. Correcting sentence structure, grammar, and spelling when the manuscript needs structural, plot, and character revisions wastes time and effort. So, the first thing to do after finishing a story is have new eyes take a look at the big picture.

Developmental/Substantive/Content Editing

Examines big picture issues. Looks at the manuscript as a whole, and focuses on themes, plot, flow and continuity, and writing style. You will receive an editorial letter with line-by-line Track Changes that includes analysis of:

The Story Hook / Plot and Structure / Character Development / Content Development / Setting and Description / Point of View / Dialogue / Voice and Style / Telling vs. Showing / Common Language Issues

So, the big picture items are out of the way. Back to our analogy:

No more brain swelling, and the bleeding’s stopped. Your skull is still open.
Should the doctor remove the packing from your head and replace the skull …
 Or just sew up the gash?

I’m thinking remove gauze packing and replace the skull. I am betting you feel the same.

Line/Style Editing

This line-by-line review focuses on writing style, as well as language used to tell your story and its effectiveness. For instance, do your analogies make sense? Would a different word improve the sentence? Does a point need clarification? Corrections and suggestions made in a Microsoft Word document. Focuses on:

Flow, Tone, Clarity / Word Choice / Sentence Variation and Flow / Point of View Consistency / Clichés / Show vs. Tell Effectiveness / Dialogue and Beat Use / Use of Five Senses / Chapter-ending Hooks / Fact Checking / Tense Consistency / Some Spelling and Grammar

Okay, so you’ve made it through Developmental and Line Editing. Back to the analogy:

You’re still alive and your head’s back intact.
Here’s where the doc sews up that gash!

Finally, you are pretty much healed and can go home. But now come the smaller details:

Copy Editing

Grammar, punctuation, and correct word usage take center stage. But that’s not all. Detail consistency and description consistency get the once over. You will receive a Style Sheet cataloging all the details in your manuscript for future reference and proofreading. Focuses on:

Grammar Correction / Punctuation Correction / Spelling Correction / Word Usage Correction (affect vs. effect) / Spelling, Hyphenation, Numerals, Font, Capitalization Consistency / Description Consistency (blue eyes turn brown) / Timeline Consistency / Minor Detail/ Fact-checking (business names, historic dates) / Copyright-Legal Issues

Proofreading?! Did I say proofreading in that last section? What more could there be after getting that gash sewn up, I am sure you’re asking. Think of it this way:

Girl, that scar … you look like Lurch.
Take a quick trip to the plastic surgeon for a little work.

I know you are tired by this point, and just want to put the whole experience behind you. You’re almost there.


You’ve reviewed the copy edit report and made all necessary changes and revisions necessary. If you’re like me, those revisions birthed more typos and pesky issues. So, a final proofread for the cleanest manuscript possible is in order. I like to do this on a completed non-editable work. This ensures I only make necessary changes. Otherwise, we are right back where we started. I work on:

Typo Correction / Revision Error Corrections / Style Sheet Consistency (if one exists) / Misplaced/Missing Hyphens / Formatting Issues / Stacked Words, Orphans, Widows in Print / Missing Pages or Content

*** For me, this is a necessary last step, but I understand that many are on a budget. If this is the case, I suggest your reading the manuscript again to look for these problems.

Now you and your book
are pretty as a picture.