A Quick Guide: The Type of Edit You Need for Your Novel

There’s never been a text written that didn’t need editing.” —David Kudler

by WorkinghamLibraries
by WorkinghamLibraries

You’ve finished your manuscript. Wonderful. It needs to be edited. Below are four kinds of edits and what each most commonly accomplishes.

Ask prospective editors what they include in their edits. Some will combine editing types. Others will perform edits beyond their type when they see problems. Editors love books and want to help authors produce the best novel.

Developmental Edit

(Other terms: substantive edit, comprehensive edit, macro edit)

by DarkSinistar
by DarkSinistar

Developmental editors work with the author. They address high-level structural issues. They may address:

  • Plot, plot holes, subplots, and scope of story
  • Characterization, character arc, character believability, point of view problems
  • Voice, tone, style, and tension
  • Pacing, amount of backstory, and sagging middles
  • Lack of conflict, too much telling, information dumps, areas of confusion, inconsistencies,
  • Scene goals and whether a particular scene is necessary
  • Setting
  • Research

Line Edit

by PatternPictures
by PatternPictures

Line editors are concerned with readability, clarity, fluidity, writing style, and language use. They review the manuscript line by line and paragraph by paragraph. While preserving the author’s voice, they point out problems or make changes (through a “track changes” feature). They may:

  • Reorder, delete, add, or rewrite sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters
  • Improve paragraph and sentence flow, smooth out awkward or wordy sentences, and change run-on sentences
  • Improve word choices, catch clichés and generalizations, enhance weak transitions, adjust pacing, and eliminate repetition
  • Tighten sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue
  • Point out inconsistent character behavior, confusing actions, passive voice, over-used words, too flowery writing, overuse of adverbs, and shifts in tone
  • Ensure language fits the author’s audience and dialogue is believable and consistent


Copy Edit

by PublicDomainPictures
by PublicDomainPictures

Copy editors perform technical work on manuscripts that are close to their final form. They make sure the details are correct. They’re concerned that the writing conforms to a style, such as the Chicago Manual of Style. They may do the following:



  • Correct errors in spelling, syntax, punctuation, and grammar
  • Ensure consistency in style throughout manuscript, e.g. in numerals, spelling (OK or okay), and capitalization
  • Point out nonfactual assertions, inconsistencies in character traits, and implausible statements
  • Look for possible problems with the use of brand names
  • Ensure proper manuscript format


by geralt
by geralt

Proofreaders make the last technical check of the novel. This is where the galley proof or electronic copy come in. Proofreaders may do the following:

  • Search for typos
  • Look for mistakes in spelling, punctuation, spacing, pagination, capitalization, use of numerals, and verb tense
  • Ensure earlier changes were made correctly

The order in which edits should be performed:

Developmental Edit ⇒ Line Edit ⇒ Copy Edit ⇒ Proofreading


Often, authors themselves, critique partners, and beta readers can perform Copy and Proofreading tasks. Critique partners and beta readers may also help with some Line editing.

So, authors with limited funds may need to put their money first into Developmental editing and then into Line editing.

Novelists need editing. Here are lists of tasks each type of edit performs. Click to tweet.

What are other tasks your editors perform?

5 Steps to Recharge Your Creativity

“The wise learn from the experience of others, and the creative know how to make a crumb of experience go a long way.” — Eric Hoffer

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you ever feel your creativity is at an all time low? Everything you do is a rehash of what you did when your creativity burst like fireworks on the Fourth of July? Your bucket comes up dry from your fresh-ideas well?

Try this method and feel your creative juices start to rumble and bubble deep within you.

Step 1 – Observe

Image courtesy of Kookkai_nak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Kookkai_nak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grab your laptop or a sheet of paper and a pen and sit in three different places for 5 minutes. Make sure:

  • one is a favorite room inside,
  • one is a less favorite setting like a laundry room or bathroom,
  • and one is outside.

During your 5 minutes in each place inspect items around you and list 3 things that delight you.


In a favorite nook, I enjoy the hand-carved leaves and flowers of a table from India. The details on the fireplace iron insert surprise me in how the designer combined art, simplicity, and function. Studying the ends of the magazine rack shaped like a musician’s lyre, I recall why I bought it at an antique mall.

In the laundry room, I like the convenience of the hand-wash function on the washing machine. The curved sides of the stacked washer and dryer. And the sunny wall color someone named Cloudy Sunset.

Outside, I delight in the bright yellow and black goldfinches on our feeder. The furry bunny licking the dew from the earthy slate on our back porch. Today’s sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains. And the new red Gerbera daisy that opened this morning.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Step 2 – Imagine

Now imagine the creator of each thing you listed, the artisan, designer, or inventor. Picture his excitement about his idea, his enjoyment at each stroke of his hand, and his reluctance to leave his creation at lunchtime. Imagine another’s mental pictures as she considered how you would receive her handiwork. Her hope you’d delight in a particular aspect.


Step 3 – Thank

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Take a moment and mentally thank each creator for his gift, his willingness to learn his craft, his work, his perseverance, and his desire to make life a little better for you. I’m thanking the woodcarver, the iron inset designer, the paint colorist, and God for their creations.

Step 4 – Ask

MP900289434From all the items you listed, ask yourself whether something in the observing, imagining, or appreciation experiences might spark a fresh idea for your audience. Using my observed items:

  • A time-saving idea for your blog
  • An historical romance about an iron fireplace inset maker
  • A painting to capture God’s awesome sunrise
  • An interesting shape to add to your pottery
  • A children’s story about a thirsty bunny
  • An article about perseverance in your art
  • Earrings in the shape of lyres

Paintbrush with Blue PaintStep 5 – Act

Even if an idea for your next creation fails to strike you immediately, do something that calls you to create. Think of those close to you who could use a boost.

  • A doll on a shelf inspires making paper dolls for your daughters.
  • A lyre magazine rack sparks writing a love song for your wife.
  • A cake on a magazine cover instigates decorating cupcakes for your kindergarten class to resemble each child’s face in skin, hair, and eye color and adding their initials.

The bigger ideas will come now that you’re back in action.

Please share an idea you had while stepping through this method.

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5 Cautions in Adding Humor to Your Creative Works

Alpine Cow“The secret to humor is surprise. — Aristotle

We know humor adds much to engaging an audience. This is true whether our works are art pieces, presentations, dramas, novels, short stories or non-fiction. But we also know humor, unlike other elements in our creative works, has a greater chance of falling flat.

Here are tips that will make your humor less likely to produce deadpan stares or full-blown cringes.

Caution 1. Don’t keep trying to make something funny that’s resisting you. A good reason most likely lies behind the roadblock. The idea could be offensive or hurtful. The idea may need extensive background or setup and risks losing the audience. Or it may not be right for the setting of your work. Some ideas are too outdated to tickle current audiences.

See what you think of this example:

ID-10062080A 1958 film, Mon Oncle, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and other awards. It had audiences rolling, especially the kitchen scene. (I remember.) Here’s its IMDb blurb: “Monsieur Hulot visits the technology-driven world of his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, but he can’t quite fit into the surroundings.” Check out this short clip and decide. Timeless or passé humor?

Caution 2. Don’t overdo the humorous moment in length or drama. But do give the moment what it needs to be recognized as a humorous tidbit. Look for a balance.

Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King have appeared in films of their works for a bit of humor. You decide whether the film professionals gave their appearances the appropriate length and drama for the work. Here are YouTube clips showing Hitchcock’s cameo appearances and one of King’s.

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caution 3. Don’t create humor that’s complicated and makes audiences work hard for their laugh. Many enjoy slapstick because it’s easy to “get.” Others prefer wit and humorous situations that lead them to their laughs.

You decide if the table ballets in films, Benny and Joon and in Gold Rush, are simple and humorous (and timeless). See both clips here starring Johnny Depp and Charlie Chaplin.

Caution 4. Don’t repeat witty or slapstick elements for the sole purpose that the humor will work a second or third time in the same work.

Image courtesy of Lavoview at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Lavoview at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unless perhaps you’re one of the Three Stooges, repetitions lose the element of surprise and become less entertaining with each re-appearance. Possibly, you can make the idea work again if you’re able to add a fresh angle.

Businessman Stepping on Banana Peel

Caution 5. Don’t include slapstick in writing, drama, or presentations unless it’s well planned and orchestrated.

Slapstick is defined as: “comedy based on deliberately clumsy actions and humorously embarrassing events.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) I think the key element is the humorously embarrassing event. Random clumsy actions alone have no story and can take away from the work. You decide if Mr. Bean, as he paints his room, has an effective embarrassing event for his clumsy actions.

What were your decisions on the film clips? What cautions do you have in using humor?

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