Some edits blur into each other in practice, but there are technically four distinct types.
- Developmental Edit
This is where I specialize and usually the first stop on your editing journey. I look at your manuscript as a whole. I analyze the thematic elements, character arcs, pacing, plot holes. Does your book match genre and age group expectations? Are your characters engaging? Do you need to trim one plot line or enhance another? Developmental editors can help you make these macro level changes.
2. Line Edit
These edits dissect the manuscript at a sentence level. Think diction, style, flow. Are any of your sentences awkward? Are your paragraphs too long or too short? Are your phrases clear or confusing? Line editors can help you craft better sentences.
3. Copy Edit
This is the time to nerd out on grammar, syntax, fact checking, consistencies. Did your character have blue eyes in chapter one but brown eyes in chapter thirteen? Did that scientific experiment seem unrealistic? Are there any misspelled or repeated words? Is your punctuation off? This editor will notice them and make the appropriate changes.
These are the final eyes that view the manuscript before it is submitted for publication, and they are primarily looking for typos. Think of them as the editor’s editor. They are looking to catch any mistakes the previously missed. This is typically the last stage on your editing journey.
Blurred Editing Lines
It’s important for an author to know what kind of editing he/she is looking for. It’s essential to begin on a macro level and end on a micro level. What’s the point of fixing the phrasing of a paragraph or the punctuation of a sentence if you’re going to eliminate that character entirely in the developmental edit?
Save yourself wasted time and do your editing in order. The line and copy edit are often combined, which I can understand. Grammar and sentence structure go hand in hand, but it’s imperative that you have at least two or three passes on your manuscript.
Critique partners and beta readers can supplement if you can’t afford multiple editors. But it is essential to have someone look at the manuscript as a whole before getting into the minutia. Then, ideally, have someone read it to make sure your previous editors were right.