Thursday, 3 July 2014

Critiques, Structural edits, Copy-edits.... Let's Define the Beasts

In my last post I wrote about how I was interviewed by author Sandra Danby for her blog about editing and tips for writers, after Fiction Feedback had copy-edited her book.

Since then - is it by coincidence? - I've been asked several times what's the difference between structural or developmental editing and copy-editing, and whether a critique is the right choice rather than an edit.

So it makes sense to reproduce some of the info I gave to Sandra here on Fiction Feedback's own blog. Enjoy!

What’s the difference between a critique, structural editing, copy-editing and proofreading?

A critique takes a broad view of your story or novel and highlights major strengths and weaknesses and makes outline suggestions for improvement. It’s a good starting point.

Structural or developmental editing looks at all the strengths and weaknesses and helps you make changes. It’s very hands-on. It looks at the nuts and bolts of how the MS is working as a story or novel – structure, narrative arc, characterisation, plot, pace and style.

Once that’s done – and allow for two more drafts after your first – it’s time for copy-editing. This is where we examine the prose word by word. Yes, we pick up problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation, and ensure all-important consistency, but you’ll also be encouraged to test that every word is doing its job to the utmost. So we’ll look at vocabulary choices, naturalistic dialogue, facts, logic, repetition, minor glitches in characterisation or plot, anachronisms and verisimilitude. Do you quote a TV show of 1963 and mention its host? We check it was broadcast then and that the host is the right one. Do you write about watching events at the bottom of an unlit garden from an English home at 5pm in January? We respectfully point out that might not be feasible. Do you use one expression of amazement no matter which character is speaking? We suggest you create different expressions for each character. Allow for two copy-edits.

Once you’ve checked the final copy-editing amends, you shouldn’t really be making any further revisions. But just in case you do, and to pick up any oversights or inconsistencies, the novel needs to go through a final proofread before publication, preferably by a different pair of eyes. At Fiction Feedback, we use a different proof-reader from the editor whenever we’re asked for the service.

So there you are. If you've any questions, leave a comment below, visit the Fiction Feedback site or email us: