Regardless of how experienced you are as a fiction writer, the editing process is essential to turning your written work into something truly special. But mastering the art of fiction editing can take time and practice – it’s much more than simply checking spelling or grammar mistakes.
Fiction editors can help you find typos and other errors that may have slipped through without their expertise, as well as improve general dialogue or story flow to make your writing smoother and more powerful. But even if you choose to enlist the help of a professional, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of the fundamentals of fiction editing so that you can ensure your work is being edited correctly.
Fundamentals of Fiction Editing
Consider Your Reader
The first thing you should keep in mind when editing fiction is your reader. What do they need to know? What will help them understand the story better and become invested in the characters? As an editor, it’s important that you consider all aspects of what makes a good story: plot, character development, setting, and language. You want to ensure that these elements are as polished and effective as possible.
Know the Genre
Not all stories are created equal, so you should look closely at what genre your story falls under. This will help inform the style of editing you use. For example, fantasy stories require an editor who understands how to create world-building descriptions and captivating dialogue. Romance stories, on the other hand, often rely more heavily on subtlety and emotion. Knowing the genre beforehand gives you a better starting point for your edits.
Check for Clarity
Another important editing skill is assessing the clarity of a story’s language. Do each sentence and paragraph flow logically? Are there points of confusion or too much information in one sentence? Clarity is key when it comes to making sure your reader understands the story and stays engaged throughout.
Look For Consistency
When working on a longer piece of fiction, you’ll want to look at narrative consistency. Are characters behaving in a consistent manner throughout the story? Does the author’s choice of language reflect the tone and atmosphere they are trying to create? Consistency also applies to details like character names, dates, and locations. If these are mentioned multiple times throughout the story, you want to ensure they stay consistent.
Think About Structure
Fiction editors focus on the big picture just as much as they do the small details. It’s important to think about how each scene or chapter fits into the whole and make sure that everything is connected in a logical way. If scenes seem out of place or unnecessary, consider deleting them or consolidating them with others.
When editing dialogue in particular, it can be helpful to read it aloud so you can hear if it sounds realistic and flows naturally. You may find that certain phrases don’t make sense when spoken out loud or need to be tweaked for clarity. Reading your work aloud also helps you pick up on any typos or other errors that may have gone unnoticed during a silent read-through.
Look For Repetition
Be mindful of repeating words, ideas, or descriptions throughout your text. Overusing certain phrases can make the writing appear repetitive and monotonous, so try to replace them with something fresher that adds to the overall readability of your story.
Revise, Revise, Revise
Even if you think you’ve got a draft that’s mostly ready for publication, it can still benefit from one or two more editing and revisions. Taking a second or third look at your work can help you make sure it reads logically and effectively, as well as catch any last-minute mistakes.
Advantages of Hiring a Fiction Editor
Though it’s important to have a basic understanding of fiction editing, there are certain benefits that come with hiring a professional editor.
Experienced Perspective: Professional editors have years of experience that can be used to provide feedback and advice on improving your work. Their eye for detail and knowledge of the publishing industry can help you pinpoint issues that may not have been obvious before.
Time Savings: Editing a piece of fiction is time-consuming, so hiring an editor can help you save time and energy in the long run. This can be especially useful if you’re working on tight deadlines or multiple projects at once.
Objectivity: As a writer, it’s easy to become too attached to your work and overlook potential problems or errors. An editor provides an objective perspective that can help make sure your story comes together as it should. No matter how great your story is, having a professional opinion can help you make sure your work is the best it can be before submission.
Qualities of An Excellent Fiction Editor
Good communication: An excellent editor should communicate their thoughts and suggestions clearly, so you can understand why they are making the changes they are suggesting.
Attention to detail: Successful fiction editors have a knack for spotting even the smallest errors. They can quickly identify typos or grammar mistakes that may have gone unnoticed, as well as redundancies in writing, plot inconsistencies, and much more.
Flexible: Working with a professional editor should be a collaborative process. A great editor understands that the success of a project depends on listening to the client’s input and being willing to adjust their approach when needed.
Compassionate: Writing can be an emotional process, so it’s important that editors approach their work with empathy. A good editor should be able to maintain a positive attitude even when giving difficult feedback and ensure that the client feels supported throughout the editing process.
In conclusion, finding a professional fiction editor can be the difference between success and failure for any piece of writing. Though it’s possible to self-edit, hiring a knowledgeable editor can help make sure your work is of the highest quality and stands out from the crowd. Their attention to detail and experience can provide invaluable insight into improving your story. With their help, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing your writing become published.