EDITING: The Critical Stages of Honing Your Draft

In our earliest phases of writing, we are prone to think that “editing” is nothing more than proofreading our draft for correct spelling, good punctuation and usage, and completeness of thought or idea. In fact, this first cut at editing, which we are well qualified to do ourselves, is a quick intro to the editing processes that will govern our writing.

Before you share the draft with anyone else, you must edit it yourself. How much editing you do is based on how confident you are in your editing skills. The further away from that first draft that you move, the more errors will be introdu


ced into your final paper. To this end, professional editors offer their talents for a fee. Before you negotiate that fee you should understand the levels of editing that you are paying for.

Proofreading in its simplest form is checking for spelling errors, misapplication of punctuation marks, word usage and form issues (think verb tenses), and sentence construction. Paragraph construction is also at issue with proofreading, but this is the point that it intersects with copy editing.

Copy editing should be executed by you in your first draft, but it will also be done by the publisher of your work. Your review assures that your piece says what you want it to say in the most effective way. Your publisher assures that your piece fits into their marketing profile as far as content and reach. Copy editors may often resize your piece by omitting a few lines or sentences. Your main concern (and why you should always proofread your own work as well as the proof sheet from the publisher) will be to assure that those omissions do not affect your message to the reader. In a personal example, two sentences omitted from an article on data management resulted in the article reaching the opposite conclusion from what I was advising. Unfortunately, I had been “too busy” to read the proof from an editor I trusted.

Content editing is a strange animal for me. I was a content editor for years as a consulting editor for Data Resource Management (demise, early 90’s – pre digital publishing). My job was to critique articles submitted to the journal, validate topic as relating to our audience base, and assure that the arguments actually supported the thesis. This particular topic was a job for a subject expert,  but the overall task is comparable to how your high school teacher rated your compositions. [I also graded high school compositions].  I say it is strange for me, because recently when I submitted my novel to a publisher they claimed to do content editing, but what they really meant was what I call “fact checking.” So be sure you know what you are paying for.ogre


Fact checking is part of the copy editor’s job at the newspaper. They check the facts in your work to assure that trade names are not infringed upon, that you have not misrepresented any persons or companies, or slandered anyone with unfounded “facts.” It is in fact what is being done today to scrub our political conversation on a daily basis. There are writers who specialize in fact-checking for criminal and judicial novels rich in detail.

Developmental editing is a complicated subject to tackle with a summary description. It aims at the constructs of your draft, how the subject is framed and developed, and how it targets the audience. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, essay or short stories your work must be presented in a manner that keeps the reader’s interest. I have made this subject a little easier to address by laying out the constructs of story and genre in three earlier blogs on the Madrona Workshop Troupe site.

10/13/17  Getting Things Done
10/16/17  Weaving A Story
10/20/17  Cloaking Story in Genre

More to say about Developmental Editing in the next blog.










About Jo Meador

Writer Novelist Teacher Musician Coach
This entry was posted in A Day In The Life of Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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