As the publishing industry evolves, media and publishing independents have witnessed the dissolution of the full-time copy editor. Among magazine, news media, and book publishing entities, an in-house copy chief is often considered a luxury of days gone by. The expense of the full-time position is often too difficult to justify, and the responsibility of clean copy can fall on in-house production teams.
Maintaining the attitude of a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist when editing, particularly for fiction and memoir, is crucial to preserving an author’s voice.
Opinions are like . . . you know: everybody’s got one. House editing style guides and preferences are no different. Browse through any random collection of imprint house publications, periodicals, or online articles, and you’ll witness a menagerie of guides, including The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), the Associated Press Stylebook(AP), and a smattering of personal preferences seemingly chosen at random. The resulting style format can resemble an amalgamation of spare parts—something akin to a Frankenstein’s monster of house style. The curious aspect is the specific, obscure details individual editors decide to take a stand on—the hills upon which they choose to fight and die.
Given that there is overlap between the different stages of editing, and the fact that some smaller presses forgo line editing altogether, why should we even care about it? It’s a legitimate question. I think the line edit holds an important place in the publishing process, even if it doesn’t get the benefit of being a distinct procedure.
These are the opening stages of grief that you may go through when receiving a developmental edit on your manuscript. But don’t worry. You’re not alone.
So you’ve written a novel. You’ve done a couple of drafts, and you feel good enough about it to ask a few people to take a look. Choose carefully; you need constructive feedback, not unconditional love. You won’t get it from the person who’s kept all your precious papers since you were four, and you won’t get it from your soul mate. Your trusted readers are business casual: friendly, but there for a reason.
The first read is mostly for characters and story—the who, what, and why. Your trusted readers tell you what was great about the book and what wasn’t so great. They ask for clarification and comment on that thing that happens in chapter four that maybe could happen sooner, or not at all. You grit your teeth, smile, and revise.