Today is Halloween. Tread carefully around our website. Amanda (our resident horror writer) will release the monsters from her lair tonight. Beware. And watch your children closely when they’re out searching for treats. You never know what they’ll find in the shadows — or what shadows will find them.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time today (or this month). But I figured I’d give Amanda some love. Last night, she and I did a little work with her flash fiction piece. (Read it HERE.) Sadly, I had to leave after the first paragraph and a half, but I think she did a fine job without me anyway.
But what were we doing? It’s only a few hundred words, right? It shouldn’t take that long. No reason to stay up until
4 a.m. 5 a.m. Well . . . a line edit, my friends. That’s what we were doing. You’ve never seen a couple of happier writer INTJs.
What does the line editor do?
If you’ve read my post on the kinds of edits available to you, you’ll know that line editing is a special type of project. If you’re serious about writing a decent book, you won’t skip this step. Line editing is more than fixing punctuation or typos (that’s copy editing actually). It requires a certain kind of attention — an ear for prose. It requires an inherent knowledge of language. And I’m not just talking about grammar (though good grammar is important), I’m talking about the artistry of language, the musicality of it. Style, so to say.
Do not just hire anyone claiming to be a line editor. Read the work they’ve edited. Read it carefully. Line editing requires either training or natural talent (a bit of both is best). And I feel a bit brazen saying this, but just like with other kinds of edits, not everyone can do it. You wouldn’t hire an optometrist when you need a podiatrist, right? In the editing world, the same differences apply.
Why are line edits important?
Have you ever read a book and lost yourself in it? Forgot that you were reading a book? That’s good line editing. I’m not saying the initial writing wasn’t good (we editors are only as good as our writers). But a line editor will forge the bridge between the author and the reader with the words on the page. We do not fix prose. We bring it to life.
How does the line editor work?
For a complete line edit, I do two things. Firstly, I go line by line. I find the rhythm of your prose, dust it off, and polish it. Then, I’ll go back and work with the lines in combination with the others in order to smooth them out into one final product. If you work with me, you will rewrite. A lot. I do not rewrite sentences for you. I will push you to find your own answers. I will ask a lot of questions that will make you think about how you’re using your words (and language). But you will learn a lot, too. Eventually you’ll start to see patterns. You’ll start to feel your voice.
Why should you get a line editor?
Because you don’t want reviews that say: “The story was good, but the prose was clunky.” “I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I loved the story idea, but I couldn’t connect with it. Something was missing.” “I just couldn’t forget I was reading a book.” “I couldn’t get invested/engaged in the story.” “Places just felt awkward.” “Things could have been worded better.” “Too much telling, not enough showing.”
Let me put it this way: Though some people are stubborn readers and will read a book from cover to cover no matter how bad it is (definitely not me), many will not. Line edits are what keep people in your story.
In conclusion . . .
Get a line editor for your book. They’ll probably do copy editing, too, so you can get two edits for the price of one. (I do.) And maybe I’m a bit biased, but I’d argue that along with good content editing, line editing is the most important part of prepping your story for publication. So when you’re searching for a line editor, do three things: Read their edited work (as I said above), read their written work, and make sure they actually know what a line editor does. The freelance world is full of people who have hung up their door signs without even researching their own chosen profession. If the self-proclaimed line editor is focusing on punctuation and typos, for instance, you aren’t hiring a line editor. You’re hiring an optometrist for your podiatry issues.
So that’s that. Now go read Amanda’s Halloween story. Happy Halloween!