Blogumentary: Editing, Proofreading, Beta Reading, and Rewrites

Now that the first draft of Crossover is in the books (get it?), it’s time to start the editing process. Or is it proofreading? Or any of those other words from the title of this post? What do all those words have in common, other than basically being synonyms for one another? Most people use them interchangeably, but indeed, they each serve a specific part of the editing process. Writers always talk about the importance of editing, and the amount of time it entails, but what exactly does that look like?  I’ve touched on this concept previously, but today we’ll get a little deeper into the weeds.

For my own projects, I break it into steps. I start by reading through and making sure the story makes sense. I look for scenes that need expanded, characters that need rounded out, and other major themes. I also look for obvious spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues that are easy to catch and quick to fix.  After that, I disperse it to my beta readers and let some outside eyes get a peek at it. I have them look for the same things to make sure my brain isn’t overlooking any glaring issues since I know what is intended.  Next, I go through with a fine tooth comb and look for any final spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues. This is the hard part because as the creator of the material, your eyes know what’s supposed to be there and are really good at glancing over things.  After that, I order the first physical copy of the book and read through it again, line by line to check one more time for any issues or mistakes.

For other works I review, I ask what the author is looking for.  Some writers feel confident in the material and just want another set of eyes to find misspelled words and unnecessary commas.  Others want to make sure they haven’t overlooked any major issues with the plot structure.  Are they only worried about punctuation, spelling, and grammar? Or are they looking for plot holes and pacing issues?  These questions fall into more specific categories of editing that I haven’t even mentioned yet (but don’t worry, I’ve basically already described them all, so now I just need to tell you the name for each process)!  Here we go!

  • Developmental editing – typically used when a writer has a concept for a story and possibly a rough outline, but still needs to fill in some gaps.  The first draft usually isn’t even completed at this point.
  • Structural editing – this looks at content, plot structure, and overall flow of the story.  This would normally be the first step after completing a first draft, and this is usually where the re-writes are the heaviest.  Re-writes fall in here, which just means going through and modifying/adding to what’s already there.
  • Content editing or Substantive editing – this is where the editing process starts to break down the content that’s on the page. This type of editing begins to break the story down chapter by chapter and paragraph by paragraph to make sure things are ordered properly and make sense.
  • Line editing – exactly like it sounds. This type of editing is going like by line, word by word, looking for run-on sentences, fragments, and word usage.
  • Copy editing – this is where editing really gets in the weeds. This is where we pull out that fine tooth comb for the first time and start looking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues.
  • Proofreading – this is usually the last round of edits, and this person is looking for anything the copy editor might’ve missed. The key difference between a proofreader and a copy editor is that copy editing is the last step before a manuscript goes to the printer. Proofreading is taking the first printed, hard copy of the book (usually called the proof copy), and making sure the formatting is correct and looking for any final issues with punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
  • Beta Readers – this part of the process can fall almost anywhere on this list, depending on the personal preference of each individual author.  I would encourage every writer to find a trusted group of beta readers.  Friends and family might be willing to read your work, but they’re all going to feel bad giving you critical feedback.  While it’s nice to hear how great your work is, you also need somebody that’ll tell you what could be improved.  Hopefully they’ll keep in mind the emotional attachment you have with your creation and be gentle with their delivery, but you still want to make sure they can offer helpful, constructive criticism.

That all seems like a lot, huh?  And yeah, if you want a high quality, polished, finished product, then each and every step above is very necessary before going to print.  So strap in, because writing the first draft is only the beginning!

Thank you, that is all.

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