You have finished the first draft of your book. Congratulations! Celebrate your accomplishment, but realize that you are at a critical crossroads in your book’s development. Experienced writers realize that their manuscript has a long way to go before it's ready for print. Inexperienced writers often don’t. They
are “finished” writing and believe their book needs only a quick copy edit to get the commas in the right place before it will be headed top spot on Amazon. That’s too bad because their book will probably fall far short of what it could have been. Inexperienced writers haven’t yet learned the iterative nature of their craft. A good finished product requires iterations of writing and revision. Revising well is an essential step in producing a quality book.
Drafts have different purposes. Ann Lamott, in her bestselling book Bird By Bird, explains:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. And the third draft is the dental draft where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.
Each step in the process of revising a book involves editing the draft. If you work with an editor you will deal with different types of editing, each with a different focus:
Developmental Editing – looks at the effectiveness of the manuscript in making its point or telling its story. A developmental edit focuses on adding detail, cutting repetitions and digressions, and moving parts of the manuscript to points in the book where they will be more effective.
Content Editing – focuses on the book’s clarity, cohesiveness and overall effectiveness. It focuses on craft. In short it asks, “Did you tell the story as well as you could have?”
Copy Editing – is all about correctness correcting the text on the sentence level for syntax and mechanics.
Each type of editing approaches the manuscript with a different mindset.
Before you work with an editor, you might want to do a thorough self-edit. You’ll need to revise your book from each of the three editorial points of view. When you undertake this kind of iterative revision process you need to realize that each is a separate phase of your revision. Editors Renni Browne and David King in their book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, advise:
…writing and editing are two different processes requiring two different mind sets. Don’t try to do both at once. The time to edit is not while you are writing your first draft. But once that first draft is finished, you can … increase – dramatically – the effectiveness of the story you’ve told and the way you’ve told it.
If you don’t take the time to revise your completed draft carefully and systematically you are short changing yourself because your book won’t be as good as it could have been if it had been well-edited.