The Five Types of Editing

It is that time again. It is NaNoWriMo, also known as that time when writers find themselves blocked and removed from the social networks of friends who are tired of reading things like “Oh wow! I got 1,000 words today,” “Hey look, I’m at 9,000 words. Only 41,000 to go,” and “Why can’t I write today? I have only 2,700 words and it is November 29th!”

As it is National Writing Month, this is a good time to introduce your favorite new writer to editing, and for those of you who have been doing it a while, to brush up on just what editing is.

When we say “editing” what do we mean?

Truth be told, you have to ask the person talking about the editing to know. The type of editing that a person is talking about will depend greatly on the work, and where that work is in the writing process. We have some different names for types of editing, but labels aside, they pretty much mean the same thing, and they boil down to five basic types of edits:

  • Developmental Edit
  • Line Edit
  • Mechanical Edit
  • Format Editing
  • Proofreading

I’m going to be talking about each of these in some detail in this series, The Five Types of Editing. You can see that series here at The Writer’s Manifest and as contribution to StreetWraith Press.

Before I begin talking about editing, however, I want to talk about the difference between the Writing Craft and Fiction Craft.

Oh, there is a difference.

The Craft

Fiction Craft is the process of creating a story. The plot, characterization, point of view, conflict, setting, and all of the other elements of fiction and storytelling are part of this process. The Developmental Edit that I will be talking about next time hones this process so that you have a cohesive and elegant story.

Writing Craft is the process of putting story to paper. This involves all the little things that help you translate the thoughts in your head onto the written page. Some aspects of Fiction Craft do bleed over into Writing Craft. For example, pacing is a part of the Fiction Craft. It is part of storytelling. The techniques used to create that pacing on the page, however, is a function of the Writing Craft. Point of View is part of Fiction Craft, but creating the Voice for the individual characters and the point of view character is a function of Writing Craft.

One secret about writers – often they are brilliant storytellers, but horrible writers. Others are great writers; their prose seems to come alive on the page and feels like a form of poetry, but the story is dry and brittle. It is gritty and you simply cannot stand it.

More often than not, when you find a book that demonstrates incredible craft in both Fiction and Writing, what you have really found is an excellent team. The writer may has talent, yes, and may even have strong talent in both crafts. The editor, however, is the one who helps to focus and check that talent, shaping it and building it into the story that you love to read, entranced not only by the excellent storytelling but also by the captivating way that the author seemed to simply bleed her soul onto the page.

The best editors are not present in the story itself. They are able to direct the author in such a way that the author’s talent and story come to life. That direction is what the editing process is all about.

Next Time

When next we meet, I will be discussing the Developmental Edit. This is a huge part of writing, and something most authors do without even thinking about editing. So, join me again next time and good writing everyone.

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