So your book is under contract with a publisher. Or, your dissertation defense is scheduled and you need to do a few more things before you’re done. Or, you’re very close to self-publishing your novel. The deadline to submit the finished manuscript is a month or two away. You have time, but you also have a lot of other professional or family things to do. Plus, you’ve read and revised your work so many times that you’re tired of it. You’re seeing the material in your sleep, but not in a good, productive way.
You need some space.
I’ve worked with people like you. I’ve done several of these pre-submission edits, and my final read-through has helped my clients. Most of these edits were outside my knowledge area. Three were proposals from, respectively, a defense contractor, international youth advocacy organization, and educational technology company that needed light editing and final proofreading. On the first two proposals, I caught errors that SpellCheck missed, as well as some subtle formatting glitches. I’ve also done this work on a few scholarly book manuscripts and one personal essay collection. Instead of getting lost in the material, I acted as a nonspecialist editor (see more about this role here) in fine-tuning usage, correcting errors, and querying problem areas. I primarily do light copy editing on these because I know the house copy editor will do the more rigorous work. When in doubt, I query.
Here are the 3 levels of work involved in these projects, along with the kinds of issues I look for:
1. Flagging: writing tics that need to be addressed; long, unfocused paragraphs; areas needing a section or paragraph break; poor or unclear organization; complicated sentences needing more work than we’ve agreed to do; stylistic or formatting inconsistencies that need to be checked against house style.
2. Light Copy Editing: awkward language or word choices; clunky sentences; wordy constructions; obvious grammatical and formatting errors.
3. Proofreading: typos and other errors that Spellcheck and/or another editor missed; misspelled names; title formatting; missing or incomplete footnotes.
When I’m doing your pre-submission edit, I’m giving you fresh eyes on something that’s (overly) familiar to you. I’ve noticed incomplete paragraphs, sentences repeated verbatim, incorrect author or title attributions, and other things that can be hard to see in our own work. My clients have known that their work is almost there, but they wanted a new reader to catch errors or issues they’ve missed, as well as to give some early feedback on content and structure.
If you’re working on a project that needs one more edit before formally starting the publishing process, consider a few things:
- Do you struggle to edit or proofread your own work?
- Are you worried that all of your revisions have introduced new errors?
- Are you struggling to motivate yourself to do the work you need to do before submitting it?
- Do you have other projects needing your attention?
- Are you just tired of the material and need space from it?
Have an idea for another post on writing or editing topics? Let me know.