5 Most Effective Types of Book Editing

Now that you are done with your first draft, the obvious next step is editing. If you are a fiction writer, there are a number of editing types that will help shape your story into a well-written finished piece. In this article, we will share the basics of what each type of editing entails and if that is what your story needs.


Developmental Edit
Content/Substantive Edit
Line Edit
Copy Edit

Developmental Editing

What is your story about? If your story is about a kidnapped princess who ends up escaping and defeating her abductors, developmental editing reviews your story to see if this was well expressed.

Major Focus of Developmental Editing

  1. PLOT: Sequence of events and how they relate to the general idea of the story.
  2. ORGANISATION AND STRUCTURE: Do the story sequences feel scattered? Do the chain of events make sense? Are there sections in the story that add nothing to the plot? Do some scenes happen too early or too late?
  3. PACE: How do the chain of events flow into one another? Are they too fast or too slow? How are tension and ease utilized in story narration?
  4. CHARACTERS: How well are the characters portrayed throughout the story? Are character arcs impactful or inapparent? Do all the characters sound the same?
  5. POINT OF VIEW: Who is narrating the story? is it a multiple-point-of-view story? If it is, are the character voices unique? Are their voices consistent or inconsistent as the story progresses? Would a scene be more impactful if it is written in another character’s POV?

Remember, while developmental editing, your focus should not be on grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and the like; you will get to that later. Instead, focus on searching out problem areas that will mess with a reader’s ability to get a clear picture of what your story is about. After reading your book, a reader should have a concrete understanding of what they just read.

Content/Substantive Editing

This editing process focuses majorly on paragraphs, chapters, and language choice. Content editing is generally more in-depth than developmental editing.

Major Focus of Content/Substantive Editing

  1. PARAGRAPHS AND CHAPTERS: How well are scenes narrated and arranged? Do they flow well from paragraph to paragraph or chapter to chapter? Do some scenes come too early, too late, or do they need to be removed altogether? How is the flow? Are they written in a way that makes it easy for a reader to move from chapter to chapter without feeling like the transition is choppy?
  2. LANGUAGE CHOICE AND VOICE: is the writing style consistent with the genre? What is the story’s target audience? Is the voice of the story compelling? What feeling does it evoke?
  3. FACT CHECK: are facts shared in the story true? False information can pull readers away from the web of realism a story creates. A content editor pulls the writer’s notice to such problem areas.

Understand that this type of editing is not particularly focused on errors. Though in some cases, content editors also cover line and copy editing.

Line Editing

As the name suggests, this is a line-by-line detailed edit.

Major Focus of Line Editing

  1. WORDS: Are the word choice impactful and spot on? If not, identify a better word choice. How well are powerful verbs used? Does the writer have a crutch word? Point them out. Is a synonym needed or unnecessary in a sentence? Are some unique words used too frequently in a sentence, paragraph, or chapter that they risk distracting readers? Is the story littered with abstract and vague word choices? Point out problem areas and suggest the use of specific words.
  2. SENTENCE STRUCTURE: Does the narration feel flat? Tackle run-on sentences. Are the sentences too wordy? Eradicate needless repetition in the form of reworded thoughts or action descriptions. Is the story dotted with cliche phrases? Suggest originality.
  3. DIALOGUE: Does the dialogue sound realistic? Dialogue tag choice. Suggest subtext for some direct questions. Do the characters’ personalities and mannerisms reflect in their dialogue?
  4. CONSISTENCY: Are character traits consistent throughout the story? How about tenses? Is the story narrative timeline in the present or past? Are there mixtures of is and was? Do the timeline of the story make sense? Whose point of view is being used to tell the story? Are there head-hopping scenes? In the case of worldbuilding, do the facts about the world line up, and do they remain consistent all through the story?

A line editor has no business correcting the general theme of a story or fixing plot problems and pacing issues. It’s advised that edits for those be carried out before line editing.

Copy Editing

Here, the copy editor corrects technical errors in a manuscript.

Major Focus of a Copy Editing

  1. SPELLING AND GRAMMAR ERRORS: some spelling errors are sneaky enough to bypass the spellchecker. Double-check every word. Also, look out for words that sound similar but are spelled differently. Spear/spare, weary/wary, wreak/wreck, etc. Are made-up words consistent in spelling? Do the subject and verb agree? Are there comma slices?
  2. PUNCTUATION: are punctuation marks wrongly used? Is a sentence missing important punctuation? Are punctuations used properly in dialogue?
  3. PROPER NOUN CONSISTENCY: who said what or carried out an action? Sometimes, writers interchange the names of characters, and other times they unconsciously replace them with a similar sounding one. E.g. June/Jane.

Simple errors have a way of tainting written works and giving them an amateurish feel. Always copyedit.


This is the last stage of the editing process. Now you have a printed sample copy of your book, all formatted and fresh out of the four levels of editing hell, the proofreader gives it a final spin.

Major Focus of a Proofreader

  1. FORMATTING AND DESIGN: fonts, page separators, text arrangement, footnotes, and a host of other aesthetic aspects of the sample copy of the book either print or digital.
  2. ERRORS: final check on typos, spelling errors grammar mistakes, and punctuation.

Hope this article gave you a better understanding of the editing process. It’s important to ensure your manuscript goes through proper editing by industry professionals. It is okay for writers to edit their stories as best as they can, but the services of a professional editor cannot be over-emphasized. When you do this, you end up with a book that is devoid of errors and much more pleasant to read.

There are a number of editors who specialize in more than one aspect of editing. Instead of hiring the services of five editors, you can choose an editor that specializes in more than one type of editing.

Have an awesome draft-to-publish journey!

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