editing / hiring editors / self-editing

An Editor’s Overall Comments for a Free Sample Edit

This is part 9 of my series on “An Editor’s Comments.” These are actual comments I’ve made to clients, and are directed to their particular needs, so they are sometimes quite different than what you’ll find in a style manual or other editing book. I hope you’ll find these thoughts helpful! If you want to learn more, check out the rest of the articles in the “Editor’s Comments” section and the “Various Editor’s Tips” section in my “Writing and Editing Articles” table of contents.

Technical Editing Issues:

Hello! I have just finished your one-hour free sample edit.  First I had to change it to the publishing standard (Microsoft Word 10, Times New Roman font 12, double-spaced) since you sent it single-spaced and with an unusual font. Then I did an hour’s worth of editing, using Word’s “Track Changes” and “Review: New Comments.” The comments are to explain bigger issues; the track changes are to suggest changes to punctuation, spelling, and other minor changes.

I have attached two different documents. One is a document with all the editing changes and comments marked–what I always do with a sample edit. But since it looks cluttered and may be hard for you to follow, I have also sent you a second document which shows how your story would look all cleaned up with the changes made (I don’t always do this, but in this case I think it is important).

Some Overall Comments:

As I’ve already mentioned, I have made many specific comments in the margins of the sample edit. Here I’m just going to give you some overall comments and suggestions.

Voice:

I have done my best to maintain your “voice” (including a feeling of your Spanish language background) while making the document more easily read by English-speaking readers.

Things I Really Liked:

I like the strong action in your piece and your use of dialogue. Both draw the reader into the piece and keep the reader wanting to know what will happen next.

Dialogue and “Thoughts”:

However, one thing I found quite confusing was that your main character kept switching from “thoughts” to “speaking aloud,” and since you placed both things into quotation marks, it makes it hard for the reader to know which is which. Therefore I have gone ahead and put the “thoughts” in italics, with the “speaking aloud” dialogue in quotation marks. This makes it much clearer for the reader to follow.

Characterization:

Another thing I strongly suggest is to use the main character’s name from the start.  For one thing, readers want to know details about the main character quickly, and the name is a very important detail. Also, by waiting to use her name, you end up using an awful lot of “her” and “she” pronouns which end up sounding very repetitive.  I have not gone ahead and made that change, just commented on it, but I think you should consider it.

Point of View and Tenses:

You have tended, from time to time, to move from third person point of view to first person POV and back to third person. You’ve also switched tenses from past to present to past. While it is sometimes appropriate to do so in writing (and I have left it your way in a couple of appropriate places), you need to be careful about “person” and “tenses.”

Language Issues:

There are a few places where I have added a few words or changed a few words around, to either make the English a little more normal sounding or to make the piece “flow” a bit better.

Your Response to the Sample Edit:

Once you have had a chance to go over the editing work I have done, please let me know how you feel about it. For example:  What do you like about the edit? What do you disagree with? What would you like me to do more of or less of? Is there anything extra you’d like me to do? Do you find the comments in the document margins helpful? And of course, are you interested in having me edit your full manuscript?

If you wish me to continue editing your piece, would you want me to mark all the small changes with “track changes” for you to fix, or would you want me to just go ahead and fix those things? The editing would go faster if I just went ahead and “fixed” the small things like punctuation and grammar fixes—but some writers like to be able to check every suggested edit themselves. Also, you can both save yourself some editing costs and improve your writing skills by examining the “track changes” and “comments” I have made, and then applying them not only to the sample edit but to the rest of your manuscript before you send me the rest of your manuscript for editing.

Estimate of Cost:

If you think you would like me to edit your full document, I can give you an estimate based on the amount of time it took to do the sample, and what you tell me you’d like me to do or not do (see the questions above). If the estimate is acceptable to you, we can then put together a contract we both agree upon. My estimate would be based on the number of words I can do per hour, based upon the sample edit and the total number of words in the manuscript. If you decide to first self-edit your document, based on my suggestions in the sample edit, or if you add extra things you want me to do, I will then do a second free half-hour sample edit (of another part of the document) so I have a better idea of what else I will need to do and how long that will take. The estimate will be for one entire go-through/edit of the document. If you require further editing after that, or a final proof-read, that would be estimated separately.

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