Questions About Substantive Editors from a Complete Noob

by Maria

First of all, I want to thank you for the wonderful help your website has been. I have been writing as a casual hobby for a few years, but I decided I wanted to take the next step and learn how to publish a book. I have just started my research, and I decided my first step would be to learn about editors. I have a few questions for you:

Do your substantive edits include editing grammar, punctuation, etc.?
Do the average editor's substantive edits include them?
Do your substantive edits involve polishing the manuscript until it is "finished," or only one edit?

I am terribly sorry if you already answered these questions on your website. I am simply curious, and I wanted to ask an editor directly instead of searching the internet.

Comments for Questions About Substantive Editors from a Complete Noob

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Oct 20, 2015
A substantive edit
by: Audrey

Hello, Maria.

It is always a pleasure to hear from a writer, especially one who takes her writing seriously.

I can answer only for myself in respect to a substantive edit. I put the FAQ page about editing on my Web site because there is a great deal of latitude in defining terms in the editing business.

When I do a substantive edit, I do not touch the manuscript. I read it, and create a multi-page set of comments about big picture issues. These do sometimes include points of grammar, but only if they are recurring. The issues I address depend on the type of text that is submitted. The outline for fiction is different for that of non-fiction. Children's literature requires comments on issues that do not apply to text written for adults.

The edit you seem to want is a generally called a copy edit. That deals with the details of the writing: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sometimes formatting, if that is an issue.

In a substantive edit, the editor looks at the text as a whole. In a copy edit, the editor looks at each keystroke, word, sentence, and sometimes, paragraph. These require different mindsets and take place a different times in the writing process.

A substantive edit is the first edit. After the writer has responded to the concerns in the substantive edit by making changes, it is time for a line edit, or to finish with a copy edit.

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