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Can’t authors just use spellcheck?

Updated: May 23, 2021

By Luna Soo



Hello!


I’m Luna, and I’m lucky enough to edit YA (young adult) and MG (middle grade) novels. Ever wondered what an editor actually does? You’re not alone. Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked over the years.


Why do books need editing? Can’t authors just use spellcheck?


Spellcheck iz a handi tool for basik errors lick these ones. But it won’t necessarily pick up incorrect words ‘lick’ the one in that sentence. You need a human to do that!


Editors do more than just fixing up errors, though. They provide vital ‘fresh eyes’ on a manuscript, from the moment it’s submitted to the moment it’s sent to the printer. An editor can be a sounding board for an author’s ideas, a continuity checker and a guiding hand (and more). They can help authors see their work in a different light, and shape a story so its messages are crystal clear. Books need editing to help them be as enjoyable as possible!


What are the different types of editing?

I’m glad you asked! Generally speaking, once a manuscript has been acquired by a publisher it will go through various types of editing, including:

  • Structural editing. This is ‘big picture’ stuff; among other things, a structural edit looks for plot holes, extraneous characters and scenes, and ways to elevate certain themes or plotlines. The author and the editor chat about proposed changes and things that will strengthen the story. Once they’ve agreed on what will work best, the author redrafts the relevant sections of their manuscript and resubmits it. This process is repeated as much as necessary; many manuscripts go through multiple structural edits. When the editor decides all the structural stuff has been taken care of, the manuscript gets copyedited.

  • Copyediting. Think of this as ‘polishing’ the manuscript; it’s when an editor looks carefully at every sentence to make sure it’s as clear and compelling as can be. Punctuation and spelling are also checked. Any suggested changes are marked up on the manuscript and sent to the author. The author then does their own copyedit, and accepts or rejects the editor’s suggested changes. The manuscript is then typeset (laid out).

  • Proofreading. This is ‘small picture’ stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important! A proofreader picks up typos, suggests changes to fix up widows or orphans (short/dangling lines at the top or bottom of pages), and sometimes suggests ways to restructure a sentence for clarity.


Why does it take so long for a book to come out?

Um … did you read the above section on editing?! All of those processes take time – for the editor and the author. And that’s not including how long it takes to write the manuscript in the first place!


Do you have any tips on submitting a manuscript to publishers?

Yep! But first, congratulations on writing a manuscript 


Tip: Research which publishers are accepting unsolicited submissions, and submit only to those that are relevant to your work. There’s no point submitting a fantasy novel to someone who specialises in cookbooks!


Tip: Every publisher has different submission guidelines, so be sure to follow them carefully.


Tip: once you’ve submitted a manuscript, don’t expect an immediate response. It can take weeks, sometimes even months, for someone in a publishing house to have the time to read a manuscript. Be patient. You spent a long time crafting your manuscript – be prepared to spend some time waiting for a response, too.


Tip: very few publishers will send you feedback on your manuscript. If you want feedback, consider joining a writing group or having a professional manuscript assessment done.


Tip: it’s fine to send your manuscript to several publishers at once. As a courtesy, mention it’s a multiple submission in your cover letter. If your manuscript is acquired, it’s polite to let the other

know.


Tip: enter writing competitions. Many Australian publishers hold competitions for first-time authors in various genres. Short-story or poetry competitions are also worth entering. Good luck!


 

Luna will be running a bootcamp on the 3rd July. There will be a group of chapter book & young adult authors, and one of picture book authors. Places are limited to four people per group.

She will also be doing assessments on the 4th July. Bookings for her assessment sessions close on the 28th May.







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