Gorillas, But Not In The Mist
June 19, 2017
As my clients finish up their manuscripts, we often have a conversation about what comes next. “Do I self-publish?” they ask. “Do I enter into a contract with a partnership press?” “Do I pursue an agent so I can get a contract with a traditional house?”
“Regardless of your chosen method of publishing,” I tell them, “you don’t want to skip the editing process.”
If, having worked with a content developer (like me), you don’t want to engage a holistic editor to read through the entire manuscript– to see if the chapters are in the best order; to question whether a given chapter should even be in the book, to determine if each of the chapters has a point and the appropriate emotional flow to demonstrate that point– then at the very least, you’ll want to hire a copy editor and a proofreader.
The job of the copy editor is to make sure the text reads properly; to make sure ideas flow logically from one page to the next, from one paragraph to the next, from one sentence to the next. She then focuses on grammar and syntax. Is the sentence grammatically correct? i.e. Does the introductory clause correlate with the subject of the sentence? Is the verb tense consistent? Is there subject verb agreement?
She’s also responsible for punctuation, and for properly formatting the bibliography, and alphabetizing the list of suggested reading. She focuses on capitalization, when to spell out the numbers, or leave them as digits, spelling in general. She’ll also eliminate the extra space after punctuation, because most of us insert two spaces after a period or question mark because that’s how we learned to type, though the industry standard is a single space.
Most people want to skip the added expense of a proofreader, who looks for mistakes in the manuscript like typos or missing punctuation or weird spacing because they assume that the copy editor will pick up on these issues during the process.
Although it’s primarily the copy editor’s domain, the proofreader will also catch spots where the sentences read funny. She’s able to pick up on such things because her eye is sharply focused on the small stuff. And she hasn’t read the draft multiple times, which tends to blind you.
And here’s where this video below comes in.
You would be amazed what each person misses when writing, revising, and editing a manuscript.
When you’re writing, you’re blind to what is or isn’t on the page because you know the topic so well. Because you don’t know what you know having traveled that path, having lived the story. Because, what with your expertise, you’ve forgotten what the novice doesn’t know. Simply put, you can’t trust your eyes.
When you’re editing the manuscript, you’re looking at it with very different eyes. First the big structural things, then the chapters one by one, then the paragraphs, then the sentences, then the punctuation, then the spacing, smaller and smaller as you go.
When you’re looking for one thing, you’d be amazed what your eyes will miss; shocked, even.
There’s a lesson in this: Don’t skimp. Don’t assume that you, or one editing professional, can do it all. Your readers will NOT miss the gorillas.