Editing 101: Proofreading vs Editing vs Content Editing

I don’t know which is worse, writer’s block or editing. Yes, I said it, editing can be awful. Sometimes all you want to do is write, but instead you have to take that vicious red pen to your story and cut out the words you lovingly crafted.

Alright, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I’ve spent the entire last week editing my manuscript, and it’s taught me a couple of things. First, let’s talk about the basics. What kinds of editing exist?

Proofreading: This is a cursory review of the text, checking for basic grammatical and punctuation errors.

Editing: Rewording lines, phrases, paragraphs, even pages! This is your chance to really clean up your document and make it pristine.

Content Editing: Content editing focuses exactly on that, the content. You take this step to find inconsistencies in plot, structure, character development, details in your world building, etc.

Think of it like cleaning a house. Content editing is picking up all of the junk on the tables, floors, and counters. You put the items where they need to be so you can get to a lesser mess. Editing is vacuuming and sweeping the floors, getting rid of the rest of the visible grime. Proofreading is dusting and polishing the furniture. It’s that last step before you feel like you have a clean house.

You have to take it in steps, otherwise you can get too overwhelmed. In the case of The Purple Door District, the last time I edited the book, I content edited. I checked for all of the major errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies that I had let slip through. This past week, I focused on general editing. I read every sentence and considered its structure, its flow, and its literary appeal. I ended up really enjoying that part, but it was exhausting as well. I felt like I was both creating and fixing at the same time. I’ve tried to do it all at once, and believe me, that’s even more draining.

Take it slow, and be kind to both yourself and your work. In all honesty, “editing” is never truly done. You’ll always want to change something, but there comes a point when you just have to let it go. That’s what professional editors are for.

Once my editor gets my book back to me, I’ll proofread it for any final errors that I might have missed along the way. Editing is quite the journey, but it’s well worth the destination. In the end, you’ll have a manuscript in your hands that you can be proud to call your own.

Happy writing/editing!