Edit! Edit! Edit! No, those aren’t the three stages. But if there is anything most important in producing a good book, it is enough editing. There is no bigger turn-off to a reader than a book’s glaring spelling errors, poor word-choice, unclear sentences, incorrect tense or number, and other grammatical issues. Even weak characters, inadequate transitions, and poor overall structure do not make good reading. It may be very clear to the author what he is trying to convey but his readers may not get it at all or get it very differently. It requires the eyes of another person, one who is experienced in writing books and/or who is an expert in the language that is used, to tell the author how his words are, in fact, seen.
Editors can help an author refine his work in three stages of edit: developmental, copy, and proofreading:
1. Developmental editing is done early in the writing of the book to help the author develop a topic, identify a target audience, plan the overall structure and develop an outline. When a draft is completed, the developmental editor will help the author, especially if the publisher deems it necessary, do substantive revisions to find and refine the ARC of a memoir, develop characters (who to include, describing and integrating them into the story), and establish a warm and authentic tone.
I did not get this early and very important step of developmental editing. Thus after the first editorial evaluation of iUniverse, I had to make substantial revisions. It took me all of six months to do it and when the second editorial evaluation came out, my revised manuscript still needed more rewrites. It has taken me another two months to do it. From 90,000 words it was trimmed down to 60,000. I could have saved a lot of blood, sweat, and tears had I sat down with a developmental editor first!
2. Once the memoir development is completed, the next stage is copy-editing. This is the review of language use including style, formatting, and accuracy. There are five target Cs: clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. It involves a look at spelling, punctuation, grammar and may also include word choice, sentence structure, and paragraph development. There are also certain standards or conventions which must be followed including terminology, jargon, or semantics. IUniverse also follows The Chicago Manual of Style which is followed by most publishers.
I also had major problems in this area. I still think in Tagalog a lot of times, even after having stayed in the United States for ten years. English is still a second language. Besides, what I was familiar with was corporate, not conversational English. The major rewrites I had to do, as revealed by copy-editing, involved more of word choice, sentence structure (many misplaced modifiers), and paragraph development more than spelling, punctuation, and grammatical issues. My Filipino editor and I tried out best but my husband Bill and his nephew Bill who has a double summa in English had to help.
3. Once the story has gone through substantive developmental and copy-editing, the work can be published, but not until after proofreading. This is the final stage of the editing process. The way a paper looks affects the way a reader looks at a book. An author would not want, after working hard on the content, to have careless errors distract the readers from the ideas being presented and disappoint them. This is what we commonly say as crossing the ts and dotting the i's. This step should clean the book of preventable errors, a very necessary step.
In a few weeks I hope to be at this last stage and in February give iUniverse my go signal to publish!