Addressing the creative content, sentence by sentence.
Writing can be a work of discovery: you often don’t know what you’re going to say until you’ve written the words to say it. And distinct from the subject you’re writing about, it is from within the flow and rhythm and substance of the writing itself that your readers will sense your purpose and willingness to communicate. Line editing interrogates how a thought, an action, an intent, a fact is articulated in sentences and paragraphs. Its aims are consistency and aptness of voice, language, meaning and style — in non-fiction as well as fiction.
Line editors need lines to edit. The lines you’ve written. Typically, those lines comprise a completed manuscript, whether an article, essay, or book: a text of any sort. Yours might have been through a process of developmental editing, ideally by an independent editor who has helped you shape and structure the text. Perhaps along the way you’ve also received some feedback from a few early readers. Even if neither is the case, you consider your manuscript a good-as-final draft.
In a line edit, I’ll address (but not limit myself to):
- Sentence structure and length. There is drama inherent in the rhythm and movement of lines and sentences, a vitality that shouldn’t be accidental. Form isn’t just for poetry.
- Extraneous and overused words or constructions. Sometimes words — whole sentences and paragraphs, even — are needless, and it’s true that the simplest revision is deletion. All writers have tics and habits that are as hard to quell as they are to spot, particularly if you’re rereading your own work.
- Ambiguity, confusion and awkwardness, particularly in phrasing; that is, finding out whether what’s actually there is what you meant and thought was there.
- Vocabulary. You can almost never fix a sentence — or find the better one within it — by using only the words it already contains.
- Beginnings, endings and transitions. Giving shape and momentum to your narrative at every scale is crucial. Each section or chapter must find its place in the overall structure. Junctions between sections can be logical or dramatic or smooth, and so on, but should always be purposeful.
- Textual copy-editing issues, like grammar, spelling, hyphenation, punctuation and capitalization; headings, lists, paragraphs, tables and other structural niceties; basic fact-checking; standard manuscript formatting.
- And also: redundancies and repetition; consistency in plot, timeline, point-of-view and character traits.
Approached from the province of line editing, the border with copy editing is readily crossed, and most often in the direction of travel. That is, a copy edit typically focuses on textual detail; a line edit approaches textual issues through addressing the creative content.
Get it done
Below is a general outline of my working process.
Send me an email, attaching a (word-processed) sample from the middle of your manuscript — enough to give me an impression of your writing style and intention: perhaps a chapter or other substantial section. If I think we’ll work together well, I’ll reply with my initial thoughts, a quote stating the fee, how long editing will take, and when I can start.
If you’re pleased with my comments and agree to the quote, I’ll invoice you for the 25% deposit and start by asking some questions to better understand your editorial requirements. As soon as the deposit is paid, your place in my schedule is secured. Send the full manuscript before our project start date.
After editing, I’ll send you the text alongside an editorial report and style sheet (a document listing the most significant stylistic decisions). I’ll also include the final invoice.
Within the manuscript file I will have left queries and comments for you to respond to. After answering these, return the file and I’ll complete the editing before I send you the final version.
How much it costs
Every manuscript is different. Word count is important (more words means more to edit), but other factors matter too. The CIEP suggests minimum hourly rates. You’ll appreciate how the number of words that can be edited in an hour could vary. I’ll provide you with a bespoke quotation after I’ve seen a representative sample of your text and we’ve discussed the parameters of the project.