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  • Writer's pictureMary Finch

Line Editing 101

You finished your revisions and feel confident in your story, but you know your project still needs something before you can send it off to publishing, but the idea of looking at it again, of reading it again and working it over again, feels impossible. This might be the time when you want to bring in an editor for line edits.

Why work with an editor for line edits?

As I mentioned, after doing the intensive work to revise your project, you might be feeling bogged down and overwhelmed. After staring at the pages for so long, it feels impossible to know what still needs work and what is in danger of being overworked. An editor can provide a fresh set of eyes!

Most commonly, when I begin providing line edits for an author they have two reactions:

  1. Delight that their work is actually good! After working on a project alone for so long, authors can lose sight of all the brilliant work they have done. My comments highlight strong points and summarize what works, which allows authors to take a huge sigh of relief.

  2. Renewed focus to tackle the issues they already knew where there. Very rarely do I point out an area that could use a little more TLC and the author disagrees with me. Instead, they acknowledge that they knew that area was a sticky spot, but were feeling exhausted and discouraged so had let it be. My comments and recommendations give them a new way to tackle a difficult situation.

So what exactly is an editor looking at when they are doing line edits?

When I open a project with the lens of doing line edits, I am focused on ensuring the project makes sense in the following ways:

  • Actions & Events - as I read the story, I pay close attention to whether or not I can easily understand the physical world the characters inhabit. This means specifically thinking about gestures, descriptions, and movements. If I can't immediately imagine what the character is doing or how they are doing it, I flag it with a comment explaining my question.

  • Word choice & metaphors - sometimes as I am reading, I'll find myself hung up on a phrase, description, or metaphor. If I feel like it isn't accessible or might be unclear, I'll note that with a brief explanation of what it is about the wording is confusing.

  • Sentence structure & organization - this is the biggest picture my line edits will go. If a sentence, paragraph, or even section seems meandering or there are changes in perspective or mood that catch me off guard, it is another thing I will highlight with a comment and recommendation.

Sometimes my line edits are quick word changes, sometime they are open-ended questions, and sometimes they are reorganized paragraphs. Like I mentioned in my What is Editing? post, line edits aren't about perfecting the grammar, but making sure the story is being told in the way the author wants.

What to do with line edits?

You'll notice in the above list, I point out that I leave comments or recommendations. When it comes to line edits, I don't make changes to the document because line edits aren't corrections. They are recommendations.

So when you are reading over the line edits from your editor, you don't have to accept all of their recommendations or implement all of their suggestions. I will provide further explanation or information if the author has questions, or they can just ignore the suggestion for whatever reason. Because my edits aren't the end all be all; the author's voice is.

The editor should be maintaining your voice and style at all times. Doing a sample edit with an author is a good idea to ensure that they can pick up on what is a style choice and what might be an error or accident. An editor should not only recognize and understand your authorial voice, but support it wholeheartedly.

If you have a project that is ready for line edits, use the Contact Me page to submit an inquiry! I will happily edit 1,500-3,000 words as a sample to see if I am a good fit for your project.


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