Each stage of fiction editing is briefly explained below. For more information, the link at the end of this page opens a PDF file.
Structural editing – also known as ‘developmental editing’ – is the first stage. The editor reads through the typescript in order to understand the whole story and how everything fits together; analysing such things as narrative voice, plot, structure, point of view, character definition, and the use of dialogue. If major issues are found during this process, the author will need to rewrite before copy-editing can commence.
Copy-editing is the second stage. The copy-editor carries out an in-depth check of the text before it is typeset to produce a proof copy (a trial print of the finished book), and will check for timing and continuity problems, loose ends in the plot, inconsistencies, irrelevant detail, factual errors, repetition, copyright and libel, as well as spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Some minor rewriting may be required by the author during this stage.
Proofreading is the third stage. A proofreader works with the proof copy to check the text, line by line, for last-minute errors and omissions before publication takes place, paying particular attention to spelling and punctuation. Copy-editing is a more complex job than proofreading, but both are equally important as mistakes can be missed (or even created) at the copy-editing stage.