Wednesday, 18 February 2015

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 in-depth and 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, storylines, pace and writing style.

Once that’s done – and allow for editing to at least two drafts – it’s time for line- and 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 5 p.m. in January? We tactfully mention 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 most particularly 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, whenever appropriate we use a different proof-reader from the editor.

What process when?

A critique when you’re not very experienced or confident and need some general guidance.

Structural editing when you’ve got your novel to a certain stage you’re happy with. You’ve worked on it, possibly a lot, and maybe had other input too. Now you need to hone it into something strong and beautiful.

Copy-editing is the next stage. This focuses on the prose, so it’s only done when you’re sure the structure, plot, characters, story, setting and pace are working for you 100 per cent. If you’re submitting to an agent or publisher, we recommend you go down this path only if problems with the prose are likely to be an obstacle to an editor liking the work. If you’re self-publishing, it’s essential.

Finally, proof-reading. You only need this if you’re self-publishing. Sometimes if you’ve had several drafts of copy-edits, and the last one asks you to make no further changes, it’s not necessary, although it’s always advisable. But it’s definitely not for writers who are submitting their work to agents or publishers as it’s the final stage before publication.

Becky Sharpe Book We Critiqued Gets Rave Review from Historical Novel Society

Hope readers don’t mind my dropping in this HNS review of a book critiqued by Fiction Feedback as my blog post. We were very impressed by David James’s literary yet very readable sequel to Vanity Fair – we have a paperback copy on the Fiction Feedback ‘published’ shelf – and it’s great to see we aren’t the only ones who like it. It’s a bit racy – but compared to a certain famous book–now–film, it’s pure vanilla sauce.

Historical Novel Society reviews are well regarded, so worth a look?

The Confessions of Becky Sharp by David James: Review by Anne McNulty in HNS Reviews

Fans of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair and its unforgettable anti-heroine, Becky Sharp, will delight in David James’s smart, intensely readable, funny, and surprisingly moving take on that classic novel’s plot. In the pages of James’s novel, Becky Sharp (the semi-tragic Lady Crawley) jumps to center stage and tells her own story, culminating in her marriage to Rawdon Crawley, her disastrous affair with Lord Steyne, and her own take on the decidedly scandalous characterization Thackeray gives her throughout his book.

James fills the whole narrative with great pathos, glints of humor, and some very perceptive echoes and warpings of his famous template, all the while imbuing Becky herself with all the caustic intelligence Thackeray gave her, but a good deal more humanity. Without doing excessive violence to the continuity of Vanity Fair, he manages to give his unforgettable heroine the one thing Thackeray pointedly denied her: a kind of triumph. Readers who are familiar with Vanity Fair will love this book, but even readers who are not will find it an intelligent and fast-paced story. As a literary pastiche, it could hardly be bettered.