My Process

Transparent Pricing. Complete Professional Support.

I’m not like other editors.

What sets me apart? I edit holistically and intuitively—slipping into your voice, looking at the big picture and the minute details all at once, polishing rough edges wherever I see them—and always with an eye to your overall goal or intended message. If asked to explain my edits, I often have to look up the supporting rule because I work “by ear,” if you will. And it’s not even always about what’s technically correct, especially in fiction. It’s about what sounds right and conveys the intended meaning. It’s hard to explain what I do without showing you. That’s part of why my process starts with The First Date.

What I don’t do is make distinctions between the levels of editing, and I don’t list out discreet services like “copyediting is x cents per word.” In other words, I can’t agree, sight unseen, to perform a copyedit on your manuscript because if I find developmental or substantive issues, I won’t be able to ignore them. So instead I start by evaluating your project as a whole so I can quote you on the investment (time + money) it will take to get from where you are now to publication-ready book.

That could mean anything from a single round of editing + proofreading to coaching you through the entire process of getting your book out of your head and into the world. If you find writing to be a difficult and painful endeavor but there’s a story within you burning to be told, I can even act as your personal scribe—meaning we get on Zoom and I help you articulate what you’re trying to write and then transcribe your book from your own words. If you’re looking for coaching, email me at alissa@redpenforrent.com and we can talk more about what that looks like.

If you already have a completed manuscript, we begin with The First Date. This process allows me to evaluate your manuscript and illustrate what editing would look like for your work specifically, as well as provide you with an accurate quote. From there, a common scenario might look something like this:

  • I begin with a round of developmental/substantive editing.
  • The manuscript comes back to you for a round of author revisions.
  • I perform a round (or two) of substantive/copyediting (with a round of author revision between each editing pass).
  • The manuscript comes back to you for final revisions.
  • I perform a final cleanup pass.
  • We send the manuscript to a second editor for proofreading.

The “Levels” of Editing

Although these are not distinct categories and there is a lot of overlap between them, it is helpful to have an understanding of what editing can encompass. I use these terms to help explain what the process looks like, but most rounds of editing include a mix of two or more of these levels.

Developmental editing is often the first step in the editing process, and as the name implies, it helps writers develop a rough draft into a smooth, coherent, artfully crafted work. At the developmental level, I look at the big picture of your manuscript, identifying scenes or sections that are working well, in addition to those that should be expanded, reduced, or eliminated. I identify awkwardly written passages and inconsistencies or contradictions. I can also help with things like plot, character development, showing rather than telling, pacing, composition, point of view, dialogue, organization, ensuring appropriateness for intended audience, and more.

Substantive editing, also called content editing, looks at the foundation and the meat of your manuscript, evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Like developmental editing, substantive editing looks at the big picture, but in a more focused way. I evaluate your manuscript from a holistic standpoint, looking at the content, organization, and presentation of your complete text. I look at aspects such as continuity, repetition, and awkward or confusing language, and I make sure your text is well-organized, readable, and intelligible.

Copyediting, also sometimes known as line editing, provides a detailed line-by-line review of your manuscript, ensuring that it is clear, concise, coherent, consistent, and correct. At this stage, I finesse your prose to ensure that it observes the conventions of good writing. I make sure your text flows well and uses proper syntax, and I may suggest some minor reorganization, revision, or clarification.

Proofreading is the last step in the process, and at this stage I bring in a second editor to examine your text from a technical standpoint, checking for typographical errors as well as errors in spelling, grammar, and usage. Both you and I will have gone blind to many of these things by this point; when you get too close to a project your brain sees what you know you intended to write, whether or not that’s what actually made it onto the page. That’s why a traditionally published work is reviewed by both a copyeditor and a proofreader, and we provide that same level of quality control for your self-published book.

Let’s Talk Pricing

Editing starts at 5¢ per word. The fee I quote you will include as many rounds of editing as it takes to get from where your manuscript is now to polished final draft ready for proofreading. Because proofreading is performed in tandem with a second editor, it is billed separately at 3¢ per word. Total costs for editing and proofreading therefore begin at 8¢ per word.