It’s 9:26 p.m. You’re hungry for something. But what? Celery? (Be serious.) Hummus and chips? Last night’s kitchen-sink casserole? A scoopuh B&J’s Cherry Garcia perhaps? Yum.
Sometimes it can be like that with manuscripts too. You want help, but you’re not exactly sure what you’re after. The levels and type of help varies depending on where you are in the process–mid-draft? ready to revise? preparing to submit?
Maybe these explanations will give you some clarity (sorry, no ice cream included):
Manuscript critique – a critique consists of a compilation of feedback in the form of a letter regarding pacing, flow of narrative, transitions, voice, structure and other essential elements of stylish prose. This will provide a subjective view of the strengths and current weaknesses of your manuscript. You typically do not receive comments on the manuscript itself, as with a line edit.
Developmental editing – this extensive type of editing allows you to take a birdie’s eye view of your whole manuscript. With this type of editing, you may receive feedback in the form a of lengthy, detailed letter focusing on “opportunities for improvement,” regarding issues such as pacing, flow, transitions, voice, plot, structure, dialogue, character development and more. You may also receive positive observations and suggestions too. Developmental editing does not include the nitty-gritty elements of a line edit.
Line editing – what you have here is the big enchilada of edits, aka “comprehensive editing.” This level of editing, which can vary from heavy to “light” (don’t think fluffy here), consists of a careful combing of your manuscript regarding all of the important elements of fine writing, such as voice, pacing, rhythm, dialogue, character and structure. Think of it as someone cleaning out the crumbs in your silverware drawer, only in this case, the toaster tidbits pertain to issues like transitions, voice, word choice and character development. You can expect many comments on the manuscript itself.
Proofreading – the main objective here is to ensure your manuscript is as clean as it can be–free of typographical errors, grammatical gaffs, style inconsistencies or other mishaps that will distract or confuse your reader. This article gives you a helpful rundown on what to expect.
Eventually, every manuscript will need all of these interventions, but for now, take a look at your manuscript and ask yourself what would help you take it to the next level, get you unstuck or unravel a plot knot for you. If you’re a visual learner like me, this chart from Yellow Bird Editors may also help you decide.
[Insert thought bubble here–“Sheesh. Isn’t she going to tell us where to find help?”]
So, my little summer strawberries, where can you get help with your manuscript? (I just had a hunch you’d like to know. ) Sources for critiques and editing are often offered in connection to writing workshops, and are also available via SCBWI, professional services like Yellow Bird Editors or even among your own circle of writing friends or critique group. (And about that last one–if you seek the help of an author/friend–unless you are able to reciprocate in kind–pay them, okay?)
My very best shimmery, summery wishes to you, my talented friends! You can do this.
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. ~ Jack Kerouac