Confession: I loathe the word editor. It’s why I call myself a sentence wrangler. Nothing is wrong with the word editor, exactly. But because editor is an all-purpose word to describe a number of specialized jobs, no one knows what you do when you say, “I’m an editor.”
Sentence wrangler, on the other hand, is fraught with imagery. And it’s fun to say. But I digress.
The division between content editing and copy editing has to be be made. Why?
You need content and copy editing to have a decent book and they’re NOT the same
Anyone who says they can completely edit your book in one pass is either lying to you or lying to themselves. And the result is going to be a shitty book. (I don’t even do copy editing in one pass.)
Content editing glosses over grammar and sentence-level issues. It can point those out, of course, because sometimes they’re glaringly obvious, but content editing is about, you know, the content. We’re talking the big picture.
Is your book structure effective? Does your plot have holes? Do your characters sound like separate individuals? Are they consistently themselves? Is your tone and style consistent throughout the book? Have you closed all threads? Explained your concepts clearly? Do you have irrelevant scenes or information?
Here’s what a couple published authors have said about their own content editing process—and how it’s helped them.
I have three people who help me edit for content. I give them all the same directions when I send them the original manuscript — look for continuity flaws, overall flow, and anything that stands out as not making sense.
Two of them look at it on a surface level and give overall feedback (hopefully they say things like “continuity with previous books is good, it reads smoothly, and nothing stood out at not making sense.”).
My third reader goes a little deeper. She’ll offer suggestions on places I can deepen the character development and where I can possibly add hints on what’s to come in the next installment as well as her overall impressions.
This type of feedback gives me an idea of how the more casual reader (not a professional reviewer or author) will see my book while giving me insight on how I can add extra layers to my characters to make them pop. For the record, person #3 is a published author and everything she’s brought to my attention has helped make my writing stronger from book to book.
I write romantic suspense so I have several things my readers are looking at in my books when I’m at the content editing stage. Specifically, romantic suspense has two major parts to the overall plot and they are equally important. I need feedback from my betas that both the romance AND the suspense work because if only one does, then the book won’t work.
For the romance side, I’m looking for feedback such as:
• Did the chemistry between the MCs work?
• Was there ever a point in the story when the beta wanted that MC to just go away?
• Were there points where one or both MC’s actions didn’t match what was happening in their head or where they changed emotions too quickly? (Those are serious pet peeves with me as a reader, so I really don’t want that in my books)
• At what point did they feel like there was truly going to be an HEA to the story? (I like to lead my reader certain directions and checking this lets me know if I’m doing that effectively.)
• Did my betas like both MCs? (seriously, this is probably the most important thing to them enjoying the book and if they didn’t, what bugged them about the character?)
For the suspense side, I’m looking for feedback such as:
• When did you realize who the bad guy was?
• Did the series of events add up to you or were there points that didn’t make sense?
• Did the action sequences work or were you lost in the action as to what happened when/where?
• Were you okay with the explanation of all the suspense line? (I like my suspense lines to take the reader one direction although all the hints are there that something else is going on. I have to make sure that weaving is working the way I want it to.)
I have one beta reader who reads my book and takes notes chapter by chapter on her iPad as she’s reading. This is the absolute BEST feedback ever. If you can find betas willing to do this for you, you will never regret it. Most of her feedback is emotion based as she’s reading. This is especially important when I’m trying to misguide my reader (romantic suspense!) and I love seeing her question things right when I wanted her to. It also helps because she will make assumptions that I never planned and she gives me ideas of things that are better to explore a little further within the story.