What I do.
You’ve taken weeks, months or years to write your novel, biography, memoir, travel guide, article or history of a long-lost valley-tribe in Turkmenistan. Maybe every sentence already feels crafted to perfection – or maybe you’re so close to it that you can no longer tell good from bad. Perhaps you have a blind spot, or are slightly shaky on grammar. What you really need is a fresh and attentive eye. The key to good editing is that great care is taken, from the start, to understand exactly what it is you want to communicate, so that all edits and suggestions are focused entirely on taking your work further down the path you want it to go. With every stage of editorial or design work, you should feel that the edit has enhanced, polished and perfected your words.
The word ‘editing’ can cover many things. Does the work need a structural edit, a developmental edit, a line edit? Do you need a book to be project-managed from start to finish, or just a few guidelines on a specific issue before a rewrite? Do you prefer to exchange ideas over a period of time, working together to make your book the best it can be, or do you just want a Word file edited thoroughly once and sent back to you with a list of queries and notes, and suggested changes clearly tracked? The lines between types of editing are blurred, for me as well as for you: contact me to discuss your requirements and I will aim to provide precisely the kind of attention you need.
Every book, even by the most experienced author, comes with mistakes! When you’ve been working on your text for a long time, making round after round of changes, at worst you can feel lost in a maze; even at best you will become blind to smaller errors – and spellcheck is not the answer! Copy-editing is the heart of what I do, and I am a passionate advocate of it: it is the ultimate safety net for both author and publisher, and my aim is to make it an art, not just a mechanical skill.
The copy-editing process for fiction involves an editor trained for detail – that crucial fresh eye – checking through your manuscript to look for four basic types of error:
• spelling, grammar and punctuation;
• character and story consistency (rather like the continuity editor on
• factual checking, so that your fictional world is set against an
accurate real-world background, keeping the story believable; and
• checking the timeline of your fictional events.
For non-fiction, the most important elements are consistency of information; a clear structure with useful and sensible heading levels; a logical gathering-together of topics; an ordered argument; and thoroughly checked background facts. At this stage it’s not a subject expert you need: the copy-editor should be a typical lay reader. Whatever your book is about, from stock-trading to pig-keeping, if I understand it, everyone else will, too. A copy-editor of non-fiction will also pay close attention to any cross-references, bibliography, endmatter and indexes, and check that any illustrative material is all in place and carefully associated with the correct section of text.
For both non-fiction and fiction, you will be alerted to any potential copyright or legal issues and guided through what to do about them.
Copy-editing is essential if you are intending to self-publish, but many authors also feel this extra edge of polish, and confidence that their book is error-free, will help them to compete when looking for traditional publication via an agent or publishing house.
First impressions count, and it’s not just the cover that needs to look good. The focus here is on the look of the text on the page, selecting font size and type and designing space and headings, all chosen to suit your content and create a book that is both readable and instantly appealing. Click here to see some sample pages.
Proofreading is the final editorial stage of a professional polishing package. It is undertaken once a book has been typeset, because a proofreader will not just check for anything the copy-editor missed, and be the final eagle (or cat’s) eye, but will also spot entirely different kinds of detail, such as extra spaces, incorrect line breaks, backwards quote marks and page numbering. Invaluable!
The typesetting process involves taking a copy-edited manuscript in Word and converting it into tidy, beautiful finished pages, then making a high-resolution PDF file from which a book can be professionally printed. Following on from text design, it works like ironing, smoothing out the text on every page, avoiding bad word breaks (such as leg-end or the-atre) and ‘widows and orphans’ (single lines at the tops and bottoms of pages, a pet publishing peeve), setting indents for quotes and dialogue, and making-up front and end matter to suit the book. Done properly, it’s invisible and the book looks totally professional; done badly, it hampers comprehension, creating visual ‘stumbles’ for the reader, and undermining even the best and clearest writing without the reader even realising what’s to blame.
All the services above deal with text that is pretty much finished. I also offer the same services to self-published authors, businesses, and anyone producing text (from CVs to websites to newsletters) that will be made public and needs to impress.
However, if you are struggling to finish a first draft, or have completed your work but have received rejections from agents and publishers, WatchWord can also help. At this point, it can be hard to know where to turn: friends and family may be too nice about your writing, not wanting to upset or offend you, and an expert, impartial opinion can be invaluable. It might be that all you need at this stage is a fuller understanding of a rejection, or an idea of your book’s strengths and weaknesses, plus guidance on where to focus your attention during a rewrite. Or you may want a more long-term professional relationship and encouragement. The starting point is an initial assessment, critically examining every detail of your book, honestly advising you on its merits and flaws. Follow-up and continued editorial help is then available. You don’t have to decide right away how much help you want, but can commission each round of edits separately until you feel confident that your book is the best it can be.