What is ...?

Mentoring

Mentoring is intended to be a constructive aid to support you as you explore and develop your writing, or a particular piece of writing – or even an idea for a piece of writing. It tends to take place as a work is being written, or while you are reviewing and redrafting, and the work will inevitably undergo many changes during this time. Because of this, it's not a substitute for editorial or structural advice, but equally, it's not intended to be a replacement for a course in creative writing. It may help you see whether you need to spend a bit more time honing your craft and developing your skills, or are ready to go on to the next stage (finding an editor or a publisher).

At this stage, you'll get help, with feedback, to deal with any specific areas you decide to work on.

Manuscript assessment and feedback

A report on your work can help you assess your manuscript and see whether it needs further work – and if so, what kind of work – before you self-publish or start submitting to agents and publishers. So at this stage your script will be carefully read, and the report will assess its overall publishability, its strengths, and potential areas for further work. The assessment should supply enough information to help you consider independently what you need to do, but a detailed structural edit, or a 'tidying' copyedit, may follow if that seems suitable.

What you get, subject to initial discussion:

  • an appraisal of your synopsis and the first 20,000 words/30 pages of the manuscript, to assess where you are/where you are going, and the level of work likely to be needed

This can lead to a plan for the next steps, including:

  • a read of the full script followed by a report offering a broad overview, with detailed sections on structure, language/expression, appropriateness for audience and any potential areas for improvement, with suggestions where suitable – this is not as detailed as a structural edit (outlined below), but offers some general pointers and feedback
  • one to two meetings (by phone/Skype or if possible and preferred, in person) to discuss the report, next steps, revisions (you choose at which stage you want these sessions)

Editing/Structural editing

A constructive critical read followed up by notes and advice on structure, pace, plot, characterisation, tone, language, and so on, where needed. This includes suggestions to help improve the flow, plausibility and consistency in skill and intention throughout the book. It is a very collaborative process between author and editor, so I always offer the option to have phone discussions and face-to-face meetings (where possible), if wanted.

The editor brings a fresh perspective which often an author is too close to the work to achieve, especially if they have spent a long time writing and thinking about the book. The author is of course under no obligation to follow the editorial suggestions, but they can provide a helpful starting point for developing the work.

During this stage there is likely to be significant reworking and rewriting, and I will be there alongside you to read and discuss the work as it proceeds – as hands-on or hands-off as best suits you.

Copyediting

This stage helps you avoid expensive corrections at the proof stage, and potentially embarrassing errors in content in the finished work. It is usually done on-screen, using tools like MS Word's Track Changes and Comments to highlight edits and potential issues. After the first pass, the script is sent back to the author to go through and further edit/mark up, and then send it back to the copyeditor (me) ... etc., until the script is ready to be typeset.

Checks:

  • Flow and clarity: to ensure that the text is pitched at the right level for your intended audience
  • Consistency: so that details don’t change and are not unintentionally contradicted
  • Accuracy: 'real world' dates, names etc., but also within any quotations, references and general facts
  • Completeness: important especially for non-fiction texts that may include tables, illustrations, photographs
  • Presentation: language, grammar, spelling, punctuation

Tasks:

  • Laying out and styling/tagging for typesetting (e.g. displayed quotations, poetry/letters, other special features, but also chapter and other headings, etc.)
  • Flagging up any necessary permissions (for quotations etc.) and potential legal issues (libel, plagiarism etc.)
  • Checking/preparing prelims and a table of contents where appropriate

Proofreading

This is generally the final element of the editorial process (unless you have an index), and traditionally takes place on a designed and typeset pdf or hard-copy pages (proofs). Both author and proofreader check the proofs, and once all corrections have been collated and checked, the text should be ready to print/e-publish. It is worth remembering that the proofreader can only mark the proof; it is the typesetter/designer who actually makes the changes. This can make this a slow and potentially costly stage, if there is a great deal of rewriting or tidying up to be done. If the work has a publisher, the responsible in-house editor will generally double-check the mark-up before allowing it to go to the typesetter. A thorough copyedit can save both money and time at this stage. 

Checks:

  • spelling, punctuation, layout and formatting
  • grammar, repetition, inconsistency (issues that may arise out of lack of copyedit or lack of time at copyedit, or late-stage re-writing, deletions and additions)
  • design features such as displayed text, style for chapter openings and headings
  • table of contents checked against text, where relevant; also anything involving cross-references within the text (e.g. notes, references)
  • running heads (headers) and folios/footers
  • indexes (page references) can be checked at an extra cost

Occasionally, proofreading and copyediting can be combined as 'proof-editing', and this takes place before the text has been designed and typeset. Proof-editing should only happen if the text has already been structurally checked and properly laid out, as it can risk errors in presentation post-typesetting/design; however, it can also save both time and money. Nevertheless, proof-editing does demand more time than a straightforward proofread, and correspondingly costs a bit more.

Typesetting

The term derives from when individual pieces of type (made out of lead – similar to what you might have seen on a typewriter) were set together to create lines and pages of text that would be inked and printed. There was plenty of opportunity for 'cock-ups' (originally a typesetting term for when a letter was set slightly above its partners, making the line look crooked, but encompassing a multitude of other potential mistakes) – and so it was essential to check a sample run of unbound pages (proofs) to check that no errors had crept in at this stage. Nowadays typesetting is generally done electronically, using files that the author and editor/copyeditor have refined – so there is less margin for error in terms of which characters appear on the page, and how they appear. However, there is still plenty that can be missed during the editorial process, while the focus is on content rather than appearance; it's also possible for page numbers, running heads (such as the chapter headings that sometimes appear at the top of the page) and special layout styles to be faulty once the text is run into a design template – so it's important to check the proofs before a work is finalised for print or online publication.

A proof (or proofs)

A proof, or 'proofs', are the unbound pages that are produced once the text has been typeset – they are what will (post-correction) be printed and bound into a book, or made into a digital work. The text is not editable, being fixed in place (though digital work and e-books are slightly different in this respect) and fully designed. In traditional publishing there will be several proof stages, where a proofreader will check that the text is error-free and that no problems have been introduced at the typesetting stage (such as wrong styles used for different elements, or illustrations appearing in the wrong place, and so on). Proofs also offer a chance to correct any typos that have got past the copyedit. Second proofs (and later proof stages) are when corrections are checked. 

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