Over the years, my trade books and their various editions were copy edited by no less than twenty different editors. With each new book manuscript I submitted, there were less things the copy editor could find wrong with my writing because I never stopped trying to improve it. And I'm still trying today after nearly forty years because I've always wanted to be the best writer I could possibly be.
I read many books and periodicals for writers during my early learning years, but some of my best writing lessons came in the form of the corrections my professional book editors made in my book manuscripts. Somewhere along the line, I began to keep an "Editing Checklist" for myself as a reminder of all the mistakes I wanted to avoid in my writing. You should do the same.
In time, I began to do serious self-study in the rules of grammar and punctuation until I felt confident enough to begin to offer my editing services to writers in 2004. Since then, I've helped many first-time authors whose books got rave reviews on Amazon. (See some of them here.)
Copyright © 2017 by Barbara Brabec.
Electronic Editing: A Great Way to Learn How to Improve Your Writing
Electronic on-screen editing is not only easier and faster for the editor, resulting in a lower editing fee, but a great time saver and learning experience for the author who can see every little thing the editor has changed. With a click of the mouse, any change is immediately accepted or rejected.
A VERY EXPERIENCED EDITOR and author on the Web who works exclusively with paper manuscripts (perhaps still the norm in the trade publishing industry) has published an article on his site saying that "Hiring an editor to work directly with your electronic file actually excludes you from the learning process you would otherwise experience by making corrections to the manuscript yourself. If you're serious about a career as a professional writer, you should take the time to learn what your editor points out to you so that you won't make those same mistakes in the future. I will work with electronic files, but must charge a higher fee."
I agree that beginning writers who want to become professionals must make an effort to learn how to write better, and studying the changes an editor makes to your book manuscript is one way to do this. But that study can be done as well on screen as on paper. It's what the author does with the lessons here that counts. (See left for how I learned from the editors who copy edited my various books.)
Editing electronically is not only easier and faster for the editor, but a real time-saver for the author who simply has to click to accept or reject an editor's changes. It's also less expensive and stressful. Why should an author have to bear the expense of printing and mailing a copy of the manuscript and then pay for its return as well, all the while worrying that the edited manuscript might possibly be lost in the mail? That's needless worry and money down the drain.
And why should an author have to learn how to decipher the many different copyeditor marks on a paper copy and then spend hours manually making all those changes to his or her copy on computer.
Study Your Electronic Editing and Learn
Using Word's excellent tracking function, every word, sentence change, or corrected punctuation mark an editor makes shows up in color. Deleted text shows up in a box to the right with a line that shows exactly where that content originally appeared. By studying editorial changes, you will learn VOLUMES about common writing mistakes you are making and will be able to avoid them in the future. After you've made any notes for yourself on what you've been doing wrong, with a simple click of the mouse you can accept or reject each change, addition, deletion, or comment your editor has made.
Comment Boxes. I don't know how other editors work, but my clients always got a lot of comments from me. During the editing process a good editor will also read for understanding, and if something doesn't make sense, the editor should bring that to the attention of the author. My comment notes typically highlighted text that needed to be rechecked or rewritten while others might justify some change I'd made (in anticipation of the author's question). Sometimes I simply gave the author a helpful writing tip so a mistake they had made more than once could be avoided in the future.
My clients also got something extra in my editing services that I now offer when I critique a book manuscript, and that's my extensive research and layman's understanding of copyright and trademark laws and other legal issues that could get an author into legal or financial trouble. (These are topics I discussed at length in my various home-business books and periodicals.)
Second Editing Go-Round
As you work through the edited manuscript in the first editing go-round, you may need to rewrite some sections your editor has pointed out, or you may decide to add or delete other content. Perhaps you will be asked to double-check your source material or provide additional information so the editing of a particular section of text can be completed. And you may wish to write a few comments of your own or challenge some editing changes made by your editor.
I never expected my clients to accept every change I made. And the author must understand that it's impossible for any editor to catch every error in just one pass through a manuscript. That's why I always gave every manuscript two complete passes, one in the first editing go-round, the second after the author had checked and accepted as many content changes as possible in the first editing check.
I'm very good at editing, but I'm not perfect. And neither is any other editor out there. If the first editing check of the manuscript required considerable content editing or had structural problems, that's where my focus had to be the first time through, and I could only catch some of the most obvious copy editing errors that ultimately needed to be made. After the author checked the manuscript and returned it to me (with all delete boxes and comment notes removed save for feedback to them) I would give the manuscript another complete editing check to pick up things I'd missed earlier, along with any new errors the author might have made by making content changes. This point is something you should check before you begin to work with ANY editor on the Web. Find out beforehand what that editor is going to do for you and how much it will cost for a COMPLETE editing job (both for content and copyediting).
NOTE: The editing fee I quoted to my clients always covered the "second editing go-round" and a third final check of the edited manuscript, but if the author decided to make additional changes after this point that they wanted me to check, I made it clear that additional editing checks would incur an additional fee. Editors have to do this because many authors simply can't stop making "one more change" that needs one more editorial check. Before long, this extra work can eat up a lot of time.
Many editors on the Web make a living from editing alone, so they need to quickly finish any job they take because another job may be waiting in the wings. That means they'll take a manuscript editing job, do the editing for a set fee, return the manuscript, and that's probably it. They do not encourage personal contact with the author beyond the initial email exchange, and the author may be lucky to get answers to questions they have about the editing they've received. And if they aren't happy with the editing job they've received . . . well, that's too bad.
And if you think you're going to save money by working with one of the self-publishing services out there that offer editing for an extra fee, understand that what you're going to get here will be the bare basics of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. They won't tell you if your content is poorly structured, or if a block of copy is in the wrong place to make sense to a reader. Developmental and comprehensive line-by-line copy editing is entirely different and much more expensive than basic copy editing.
I never edited for a living. I edited because I enjoyed this kind of work and the interaction I had with the individual authors I worked with. I still work personally with any author who consults with me or asks me to critique a manuscript before sending it out to an editor.
I caution you to never send your manuscript out for editing until you're SURE you're completely finished with the writing and self-editing and don't plan to make any major changes after the editing has been completed. Of course you have every right to do this, but if you make content changes after the editor considers the work complete, you' re very likely going to insert new errors of one kind or another.