What kind of help do you need?
Even the strongest work can benefit from professional editing. Perhaps especially.
I’ve edited books so good I grieved the end of the project. These books nevertheless definitely needed my help. To see what happens to unedited—or poorly edited—books, go on a romp through the book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. You’ll see more than the usual snarky comments about missed apostrophes. Readers talk about plot holes, flat characters, clunky dialogue, factual errors, and discontinuities (the character has brown eyes on page 17 and blue eyes on page 98).
Are the authors sloppy? No, they just can’t see their own work through an editor’s eyes. What’s more, the author started page 1 months or more before they got to page 400, so it’s natural to have continuity errors, changed character names, things that happened in one day that can’t all happen in 24 hours, and similar. The bottom line is that publishing an unedited book is asking for problems.
If you are ready to take your work to the next level
This work is at the macro level. This involves identifying and addressing issues with
- story arc
- central conflict
- character development
- genre appropriateness
- flagging of plot holes and factual errors
- realism of fight scenes
- writing style
- technical issues like grammar, spelling, usage, and punctuation.
I make comments in the manuscript itself that include suggestions for revision and generate a report that can be anywhere from ten to fifty pages, with quotes and examples. Developmental editing gives you a road map for how to fix these issues yourself. This service is appropriate for books that don’t need changes to the text itself yet but do have these big-picture issues.
Playwright Anton Chekhov once wrote in a letter: “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”
over 100,000 words: 3.5 cents a word
up to 100,000 words: 3 cents a word
I require a $750 deposit to hold your spot in line and I take the remainder in installments, with the last payment before I return the edited manuscript. The word count is for the number of words in the original manuscript.
If don’t want in-text comments, you can have a manuscript evaluation, which is the report only.
up to 100,000 words: $1,200
100,000 words – 200,000 words: $1,300
200,000 words – 300,000 words: $1,500
over 300,000 words: let’s talk
I require a $500 deposit to hold your spot in line and I take the remainder in installments, with the last payment before I return the edited manuscript.
This work is at the story level. It means making sure that all of the elements of your work are in the right order, there are no unnecessary story lines, and there are no loose ends. This involves my making changes to the manuscript itself.
A book with a successful structure:
- begins in the right place
- proceeds coherently
- orients the reader to who’s doing what
- makes the reader understand why a character acted
- ensures that the behavior of the characters makes sense
- ensures that all the characters serve a purpose in the book
- and ends in a way that there aren’t any loose ends in the plot.
Often the issue starts at the beginning of the book, especially with science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian fiction. The author has done a great job of worldbuilding, maybe even involving devising a conlang (like the Klingon language), drawing maps, making sure that the life forms match climate, and drawing up accurate weather patterns. The author is rightfully proud and excited about their work and wants to share all of it with the reader at once. It’s hard to understand that the worldbuilding work is a reference, not the story itself. As soon as an author puts all of their worldbuilding into the book at once, it becomes not worldbuilding, but what is called an “information dump.” It does not contribute to the story at all, and the reader puts the book down.
Occasionally, the beginning of the book is very polished and then the rest of the book falls off. There are issues with coherent structure or story. The book starts with action and stops for background. Sometimes the initial action isn’t taken up again for chapters. Occasionally, the funeral happens and then the character shows up, and it’s a police procedural and the character is definitely dead. This is not sloppiness, this is “The author began this section in May 2021 and came up with the subsequent section in November 2021.”
Problems crop up when a fight scene comes too soon, comes too many pages late, or is interrupted by repetition. John Doe has already told Jane Smith that he wants to kill Jack Jackson once in a scene where they are alone. In a different scene where they are alone, John repeats himself. Is this repetition necessary? Writing violence looks easy, but when written poorly, the scenes can be stilted, look fake, or even be unintentionally funny.
Similarly, if the protagonist has to save herself from the serial killer, we don’t need to know what she had for breakfast unless he’s behind her and she hits him with a cast-iron skillet. If she has to find her keys, run to her car, put the key in the ignition with her shaking hand, realize that she can’t safely drive away, and then get out and use empty-hand fighting tactics against the killer, that is not the time to talk about how she bought her car and who she was with, even if it’s a major character.
If she escapes, this encounter had better be mentioned in the book later. Is she a cop and she arrested him? Is she a civilian who called the cops? Did the killer die? Did he play dead and escape?
She dropped the magazine on page 4, and on page 38, she has infinite ammo.
I charge 3.5 cents per word, with the word count being the length of the original manuscript. I require a 30 percent deposit to hold your spot in line and I take the remainder in installments, with the last payment before I return the edited manuscript.
Stylistic or Line Editing
This is editing at the sentence and paragraph level. It’s adjusting the length and structure of paragraphs so they don’t go on forever or look like a wall of text. It’s reordering sentences in the paragraph to make the point easier to see. It’s editing tone and word choice to make the story fit the genre and the circumstances of the story. It often means making changes where the tone sticks out relative to the writing as a whole. This also involves editing dialogue, tightening sentences, and rewording text that creates an unintended effect. Writing dialogue is more challenging than it seems: the character needs to sound like someone with their background and emotional state should and dialogue tags should be used sparingly.
For instance, let’s take a look back at the thriller in the previous section:
She walked into her apartment and immediately felt that something was off. Her cat was staring fixedly down the hall at her bedroom door, and her hackles were up.
From her bedroom, she heard the sound clothing makes moving against clothing—the sound of a person getting up. Her bedroom door opened and she heard heavy footsteps coming down the hallway.
She turned around and opened the door. Someone was running after her—someone big. She smelled him as she ran. In the hallway, she kept yelling “Call 911!” As she ran, she heard him stop. A neighbor must have opened their door to investigate.
She made it down the stairs and to the parking lot.
Her car was in its spot. Should she keep running? He’s faster than she is. Anyone is faster than she is. She prayed that he wouldn’t catch up with her as she was trying to get into the car. She managed to get the key in the lock, cursing herself for not having an electric key fob. But he was right behind her.
She spun around and push-kicked him in the gut, then advanced and punched him the face.
There’s no discussion of the breed of the cat, the habits of the cat, or the cat’s name. There’s no discussion of the neighbor who must have opened the door.
This level of editing also involves making sure that each sentence follows from the next and that the writing is pitched to the proper audience. With dialogue, this involves making sure that the characters talk like they should. That is, your 8-year-old child character and your 60-year-old judge character should not talk exactly the same.
It also involves removing extraneous detail, adding needed detail, or changing a detail that is wrong. For example, in Phoenix, Arizona, you can’t take a subway. In Virginia, the county prosecutor is a commonwealth’s attorney, not a district attorney. A WWII Nazi can’t use a Glock.
I charge 3 to 3.5 cents per word depending on the needs of the manuscript, with the word count being the length of the original manuscript. I require a 30 percent deposit to hold your spot in line and I take the remainder in installments, with the last payment before I return the edited manuscript.
Plot Holes, Fact-Checking, and Research
Your characters are in downtown Manhattan. It’s rush hour. They’re tooling along at 65 mph…75 mph…and then Allie floored it. What? In Manhattan? Where you’ll often get there faster by walking? It’s important to know that the character can drive at desired speeds on that road in that city at that time of year.
And is the road called I-66 or the 66? Is it Route 101 in Arizona, or the 101?
And, when they find the body, is the investigating officer Detective Jones, Investigator Jones, or Special Agent Jones?
When your character on the East Coast opens up a one-pound pack of butter, what do the sticks look like?
Is there another way for your character to be rendered unconscious without doing long-term harm? Sure! Let me help. In the 2020s, your character cannot be knocked out by a blow to the head, be unconscious all night, wake up the next morning just fine, and escape. Too many people have survived traumatic brain injury and need rehabilitation for this to be credible anymore. So I can help you find another way.
Science fiction readers in particular are very sophisticated, so they’re going to be alert for factual inconsistency and factual errors. The aliens can understand each other, but Proxima b is not an Earthlike planet. Readers of true crime, crime thrillers, and police procedurals have a decent amount of background knowledge, and so you don’t want to get it wrong.
I provide this service in books I do developmental, structural, and line editing for.
This involves correcting errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, and mechanics. Do you spell a word one way in portions of the manuscript and a different way in others? Are there words that would make a 12-year-old snicker? Then they’re making your reader snicker. For example, do not refer to a building as a “great erection.” If you make a mistake like that, you might not notice it as such. I will channel my inner 12-year-old and fix that mistake.
In order to copyedit properly, especially in fiction, an editor needs to know the difference between a rule and a style choice. Also, in fiction, a copyeditor needs to know which rules can be broken. For example, in the text, unless the narrator is unusual, the editor will correct “should of” to “should have.” But in dialogue, it may be appropriate for the character to say “should of,” and it might be appropriate to let that alone. In fact, it’s probably wrong to change it.
I charge between 1 and 3 cents a word, depending on how clean the manuscript is. In fact, for squeaky clean manuscripts, I have charged less. I require a 30 percent deposit to hold your spot in line and I take the remainder in installments, with the last payment before I return the edited manuscript. The word count is based on the word count of the original manuscript.
I do not specialize in proofreading, but I can refer you to editors who do. Proofreading is the last stage of editing. It involves a final check on a manuscript after it has been formatted for publication. It is a check for things like misspellings, pages with only one word on it, punctuation problems, or inaccurate pagination.
If you are ready to take your work to the next level