Whether it’s performed by a peer, a professional, or the author, editing is by far the most crucial stage of the writing process. It’s the only way to ensure high quality and optimum readability.
Writing without editing is like getting dressed with your eyes closed, and then leaving the house without looking in the mirror. If you don’t at least check your reflection, then what’s to stop you from parading around town with misaligned buttons, an Alfalfa cowlick, or one pant leg that’s three inches shorter than the other? Nothing—that’s what. Even if you opened your eyes and looked down at your outfit, you wouldn’t be getting the full picture. Your perspective would still be limited (and that cowlick would still adorn your noggin like a dunce cap). The same is true for writing.
When drafting, the writer’s focus in inherently narrowed, and rightfully so—how can you paint a scene or express an idea if you’re worried about comma splices, semicolons, pacing, and/or stylistic consistency? Simply put: you can’t. If you tried, you’d be writing that first draft for an awfully long time (and you’d probably end up with a disjointed manuscript because scrutinizing every sentence inevitably affects the flow of a piece—stifling that stream-of-consciousness feel).
That brings me back to a reiteration of this point: Editing apart from writing is the only way to ensure high quality and optimum readability. Our brains function best when we compartmentalize tasks, even though we like to think otherwise. Take texting and driving. When you text and drive you are making life harder (and much more dangerous) than it needs to be. You are sacrificing the quality of your driving and texting for quantity—getting more stuff done in less time. (Ryan: “Hey dud, Im on they may”; You: “What on Earth are you blathering about, fool?”) It’s much easier and more effective to just separate the tasks and allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time. In the writing process, this means write first, edit later. Here’s the catch: you actually have to do the editing!
What’s the key to effective editing, you ask? Why, compartmentalization, of course!
Just like you can’t simultaneously write and edit or text and drive, there are editorial tasks which must be tackled one at a time. This is precisely why we make distinctions between the “levels” of editing. Line Editing and Proofreading concern themselves with the superficial features of a manuscript: syntax, diction, typos, etc. Structural Editing, on the other hand, reaches down into the depths of the content to bring the manuscript to its full potential. As the name suggests, this level of editing scrutinizes all aspects of the content—point of view, details/descriptions, characterization, overall structure, etc. If it can benefit the manuscript, it’s on the table.
Now, if you think about it, compartmentalizing these levels of editing makes total sense; you’d be wasting time if you were to do line editing before comprehensive editing. Why obsess over the grammar of a manuscript if its very content is subject to change? Just like that typo-ridden text that you had to edit and re-send, you’d have to re-do the line editing, i.e., making the process harder than it needs to be. So after you’ve written your first draft, don’t worry about proofreading or line editing. That would just be a distraction at this early stage in the game. Instead, roll up your sleeves and dig in to some comprehensive editing.
Where does the professional editor fit into this cacophony of compartmentalization? I’m glad you asked! The editor is the epitome of what I’m getting at here. The editor is the reader’s advocate—that’s it. That’s all he/she is concerned about. You can’t get any more compartmentalized than that. For proofreading and line editing, the goal of a professional editor is to facilitate reader comprehension. For comprehensive editing, the goal is to help the writer produce the most engaging, clear and concise document possible, for the reader’s benefit, of course. With the professional, you get fresh eyes, supreme objectivity, and a specialist with working knowledge of writing.
Wouldn’t you rather have your manuscript put under the microscope before you publish it? I know I would, especially since it’s going to be scrutinized by readers, reviewers, and internet trolls anyway. And unlike the trolls and reviewers, a good editor is always constructive, solution-oriented, and there to help, not criticize.
Not quite sure what level of editing you need? Visit our website www.blacktowerpublishers.com.ng/whatweoffer.html and see how you can purchase professional editing service for your manuscript.
Until next time, I bid you good writing!