I have just finished my first job as an editor, a few days ahead of schedule I might add! I have been working on the now released Soul Siphon by James Harrington, a book I can recommend, but then I would say that. I thought it might be interesting to share what the editing process involves.
If you are lucky enough to get taken on by a traditional publisher then the editing process can involve several different edits from structural right the way to a proof reader, but not for the self-published author, unless you have a lot of money to spend. Because of the cost you have to have everything done in one go, so for every chapter I do the following;
Look at the structure, check the chapter breaks make sense, does it have to many characters, make sure the plot works, is the character development there and believable. In this case not too many problems with this apart from a few chapter size changes the structure was very good. If you are thinking of using an editor than you ought to aim to have sorted the structure out yourself because if it isn’t right, then you are talking about a major re-write!
Sticking to rules and breaking them. One of the biggest things I had to do with this novel is help sort out the point of view. James wrote in the third person, but had the annoying habit of jumping from one character to another. I know you probably thinking that’s ok some authors get away with it. Well not many do, it’s a very confusing technique and a very good way of getting your reader to disengage. Far better to stick with one POV for a scene and show what the others are thinking through their actions, body language and dialogue. There were several parts in the book I accused him of swapping POV like a kangaroo on speed! However, there was one point of the book I had to concede and let him do it, the final confrontation, he had crafted it so well the changing POV worked. I can’t say anymore you will have to read the book, but just to say the ending is very, very good!
Working through the dialogue. This bit was pretty easy, James has a bit of gift with snappy dialogue, all his characters have distinctive voices and don’t speak out of character. However I did have a bit of work to do on the dialogue tags (she said, he said). The best thing to do with a dialogue tag is delete it, although you do need a few, ‘beats’ are far more useful ‘How could you!’ she turned her face in disgust, if far better than said Janet.
Looking out for over used phrases, we all do it in our writing, well at least I do. In James’s case there were more chills going down spines than in a pack of penguins in a particularly bad winter. If you read the book, I hope you do cause you’re in for a treat, then see how often they sneak in. If there are just a few then that’s thanks to me!
Show and tell. Again a sin most of us commit, we a desperate to get to the really good bit coming up so we cut corners and start telling and not showing the reader. As an editor it’s my job to bring those sins out and exorcise them. I also need to look out for over telling, going back over previous events, again another big turn off for a reader.
The main job of an editor is help a book be the best it can, not ghost write it. In this case it was already a good book I hope I have helped Jim turn it into a great book by being that fresh pair of eyes and doggedly pointing out any floors he had missed. The only way you will know if I did it is by reading the book yourself!