Types of Editing

by Amy McNulty

Amy is more than just my editor. She is a reader, a self-proclaimed fangirl, and an author herself. She has over fourteen books of her own, and had edited countless others. Most importantly, Amy has become a dear friend, and I am honored and excited for her to share her editing knowledge with you.

To learn more about Amy, please visit her website HERE: https://amymcnulty.com/

Editing: Who Needs It? (We All Do!)
Three Types of Editing for Your Needs

There are few things as satisfying for a writer as writing “the end” after weeks, months, or even years of work on a manuscript. Take a little time to celebrate your hard work and take a break away from the material for at least a week, but then it’s time to get ready to begin the next stage of hard work. Revising and editing are important parts of getting a manuscript ready for publication or querying. After your first readthrough, you may choose to work with critique partners and beta readers for feedback on your novel. However, you may also consider hiring an editor to help you polish that manuscript.

If you’re like many writers, you’re on a tight budget. That means you probably don’t have the budget to hire three different editors for the three stages of editing that most publishers put their manuscripts through before they publish them. If money is tight and you’re on a schedule to self-publish quickly, consider the three types of editing services and which would work best for you:

  • Developmental edits: Developmental edits focus on the big picture, specifically plot and characterization. A developmental editor will tell you if the plot has all of the elements necessary (introduction, rising action, climax, denouement, resolution). They’ll also look to make sure your characters feel three-dimensional and that your protagonist(s) experience some emotional growth by the end. Writers who are just starting out may want to consider this for at least the first several manuscripts they complete until they’re more confident in their ability to pull off the basics each time. I do, however, work with indie authors who publish frequently, at least once every few months. They bypass this step because they’ve established a pattern their audience expects and are confident enough in the heart of their story. That’s not to say that established writers can’t find some useful notes by opting for developmental edits, though, if their budget and timeframe allows. If beta readers are offering conflicting notes or are all confused about something, developmental edits are worth consideration.
  • Copyedits/Line edits: The second round of edits comes after developmental edits and revisions once the writer is confident the biggest plot and characterization issues have been fixed. For some authors, going straight to copyedits is possible, especially if they don’t want to make sweeping changes that often require rewriting entire chapters and shifting elements around. An editor doing copyedits will still point out minor confusing elements, look up potential incorrect information (referencing brands that didn’t exist in a time period, etc.), and out-of-character actions or dialog. However, their main focus will be on the prose and grammar. They’ll point out and help you fix clunky phrasing or awkward/unclear sentences. They’ll also point out repetitive phrasing and your overreliance on specific phrases. (All writers have them, most commonly actions like “smiled/crossed their arms/nodded,” etc.) They’ll catch typos and grammatical errors as well, but don’t be surprised if some still make it through this stage of editing, especially since you’ll be doing some rewrites to make the prose flow better and your copyeditor may not look at the revisions once you’ve completed them. I recommend my clients who can only afford one round of edits to at least spring for the copyedits because it’s a good balance of nitty-gritty revisions and leaving the core of the story as-is intact.
  • Proofreading: The final stage of editing for those who get three rounds of it, the proofreader is almost wholly focused on grammatical errors and typos. The editor may choose to point out any incorrect information but is unlikely to comment on the plot or characterization. This is often considered the final polish before publication, and there some editors (not me) who specialize in offering proofreading services only. If you’re querying an agent instead of self-publishing, I wouldn’t recommend hiring a proofreader because agents will overlook typos and minor grammatical errors to focus on your talent for plotting, characterization, and prose. They’ll help you fix minor errors after they’ve accepted you as a client or they might then recommend you work with a proofreader, but proofreading won’t prove that necessary at the querying stage. It’s mostly for self-published authors who want that extra assurance that there will be as few errors as possible in their finished work.

Paying for editing services may seem like an unnecessary expense, but editors are an important behind-the-scenes component of the finished product. Not only can they help you polish a specific manuscript, but if you work with one in the long-term, you may learn some lessons to apply to your future manuscripts so they require less revision work in the future. Most editors don’t expect full payment upfront, and some may even be willing to work with you on a payment schedule. Prices vary depending on the individual editor and the level of editing you’re looking for, though developmental edits typically cost the most and proofreading costs the least. The amount of time an editor needs to work on your manuscript also differs depending on the editor as well as their availability, though two weeks is average. Some developmental edits may take longer and some proofreading can be done in just a matter of days.

I’m not open to new clients until the middle of 2019, but I hope you all find that editor out there with whom you establish a rapport and a rhythm in order to help make your writing career flourish.


Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not reviewing anime professionally or editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.


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