The 3 Steps of the Editing Process

You have finished writing your story, good. Now has come the time for editing.

I know, I know: editing is the worst, right? If you’re like me, you just can’t do it. There are so many things to fix, so many corrections to make, and you don’t know where to start.

I am currently rewriting my debut novel. The process of editing has always been a problem to me because it is so much work. I’d rather write a new story than attacking the editing of a story already written. But being a professional author means that we all have to go through this process, at least once or twice, before submitting a book to an agent or even thinking about self-publishing it.

Editing is a vast process. I’m not only talking about grammar and spelling, but more profound changes that need to be done to improve a story to its core. It is important to keep in mind that there are different phases in an editing process.

Story Editing

I think the first and biggest edits to make are regarding the story itself. Your first draft isn’t your best work, is it? You’ll often have to write many drafts before even considering to publish your book. It can happen that you’ll have to rewrite an entire chapter because you think it doesn’t really fit the story. Or even delete 10,000 words because, oh well, why not?

Story editing is editing your text to its core. Is this part understandable? Did you really want your story to be like this? And your characters, are they behaving in the way you’ve imagined?


In my current work-in-progress, I’m in draft two. I had printed out my first draft and read it as I would read a published novel. I tried to read some chapters out loud, to make my characters more real and impersonate them. I realised that one of my main characters had to be older, and one of my secondary characters was taking too much space to simply be a secondary character.

But the characters weren’t the only ones needing some changes. I took notes of major problems to the plot, pointed out where I needed more details about a scene. As I tend to be a minimalist writer, I know my weakness is in the details. Some readers may need more sentences to imagine how a castle looks like, or how a battle scene takes place.

I did something I never did before: I outlined. Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, having a document in which you try to prepare your second draft is essential. That is why story editing is necessary. Just take chapter after chapter, and write down the elements of your scene. It will help you a great deal.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

You wouldn’t like your characters to have different eye or hair colours throughout the story, would you? Or maybe your character had a wound on the left of his face, and a couple of chapters after it happens to be on the right. Remember: readers know everything. They will notice the tiniest detail.

Usually, copy editing is done by someone else. You, the writer, have worked so hard on your story edits that you don’t really know how to improve your text even more. If you chose the self-publishing path, hiring a copy editor could be a great decision. That’s a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at your story. If you chose the traditional path, your agent might do the copy edits with you.

Is copy editing the same as proofreading? Not quite. If copy editing analyses your story to each and every detail, proofreading is attacking to the words themselves. Is the grammar correct? Is your text free from spelling mistakes? That’s when having an English geek comes super handy.

Proofreading means reading the proof, looking at everything likely to make a reader rolling his eyes. And after an awesome proofreading, your book is ready to go.

Now tell me…

In which phase of the editing process are you?
Feel free to tweet me @vdvestelle

If you want to know more about editing:
What is the difference between copy-editing and proofreading?” by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders
How to choose an editor?” by Jenna Moreci
5 ways to actually enjoy editing your book” by Adriana Bielkova

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