“Do not dictate to your author; try to become him. Be his fellow-worker and accomplice.” Virginia Woolf
Think you can do it yourself? Think again. Editing your own copy is like treating yourself for shock: you know what needs to be done, but you’re too close to the situation to do it. Every famous writer in history understood this, and all have been grateful to their editor for making them shine. And speaking of “shining,” no less a penman than Stephen King rhapsodized, “To write is human, to edit is divine.”
My goal is to help you convey your message clearly without compromising your authorial voice.
You’ve worked hard on this project; it’s your baby. I get that. Fear not: my cardinal rule is “Do no harm.” (For a more in-depth profile of my editing philosophy, see The Copyeditor’s Code.) I perform textual triage or major manuscript surgery—only as much as necessary to breathe life into your words while preserving your voice. I partner with you in the service of the reader, who appreciates and deserves readable prose and a story well told. The Little Fire approach to editing is collaborative, not prescriptive.
I never dictate to you—we are allies.
Peak, peek, or pique? I’m here to help you make the appropriate choice. When it comes to grammar, some rules are necessary, some are optional, and others are outdated or just plain wrong. As Elmore Leonard noted, “If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.” I know the rules and I’m not afraid to break them; I refuse to let arrant pedantry emasculate well-crafted prose.
Whether you seek to inform, entertain, or both, I can help you achieve your goal.
Historical themes a specialty!
While I am proud of my interdisciplinary background, I harbor a deep and abiding affinity for all things historical. If your project involves history of any kind, I’m your huckleberry! From scholarly treatises to biography, memoir to military, and creative nonfiction to historical fiction—I love it all.
I am passionate about history!
Publishing professionals employ a variety of terms to describe different types of editing, and that can be quite confusing. Here’s the thing: when choosing an editor, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. The following definitions highlight the tasks I perform for each type of service. If you’re still unsure about your needs, contact Little Fire for a free consultation and let’s suss it out together.
I am determined to help you get the most bang for your buck.
Diagnostic Editing (evaluative)
Diagnostic Editing evaluates and critiques the overall manuscript in the following areas:
- Effective connection with intended target audience
- Content (too much/too little)
- Structure and organization
- Level of detail
- Pace and flow
- Consistency and continuity
- Clarity and cohesion
You will receive a detailed Diagnostic Report addressing strengths and weaknesses in these areas along with comments offering possible solutions to problems—think of it as a road map to the improvement your manuscript. This may be all the guidance you need to whip your project into shape. However, if you’d like help in applying these proffered suggestions, you should opt for Developmental Editing. Good news! I’ll be happy to apply the cost of the Diagnostic Edit to full Developmental Editing, should you decide to go that route.
Developmental Editing (structural)
Developmental Editing adopts a big-picture perspective—it involves inspecting the scaffolding of your work: the structure, pacing, theme, readability, consistency, and overall appeal of your story. The aim is to improve the organization and flow of your text, to ensure that all the necessary elements are present and functioning harmoniously. This is an interactive process: together, we’ll focus on the logical development of ideas, crafting smooth transitions, and confirming thematic continuity, cohesion, and clarity. Developmental Editing begins with an evaluation of your manuscript (as described in Diagnostic Editing above). We will then work through the necessary changes to ready the text for copyediting or substantive editing. You will also receive a complimentary 500-word sample edit of your text to give you an idea of what to expect if you commission Little Fire to perform those services.
Though every project is unique, Little Fire’s Developmental Editing typically includes:
- Clearly defining the target audience
- Producing a Developmental Brief to outline issues that need attention
- Offering guidance in crafting a killer title; ditto, chapter titles
- Honing content into a razor-sharp thesis (and eliminating distracting secondary/tertiary themes)
- Restructuring paragraphs and chapters to improve cadence and enhance reader experience
- Reorganizing as necessary to ensure continuity, clarity, and a fluid narrative arc
- Adding or deleting headings, subheads, and epigraphs
- Identifying gaps in content and/or extraneous material
- Highlighting areas that would benefit from extrapolation
- Suggesting sidebars, text boxes, etc.
- Proposing revisions or rewrites address readers’/reviewers’ comments and recommendations
- Offering suggestions for developing an appropriate graphics package
- Providing a complimentary 500-word sample copyedit and substantive edit
Copyediting—which, by the way, is one word in Chicago and APA, but left open in AP style (a few sources that can’t decide just punt and hyphenate it)—is identifying and correcting mechanical issues to bring the text into conformity with a preferred style guide and dictionary.
- Fixing typos and errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, tense, and usage
- Verifying accuracy of cross-references and sequencing (alphabetical/numerical order)
- Performing light fact-checking (place/person/organization names, dates, etc.)
- Confirming styling and accuracy of footnotes, references, tables, and figures
- Developing a style sheet to facilitate consistency (for book manuscripts)
- Typecoding the manuscript (optional)
- Formatting scholarly treatises or dissertations to comport with style guides and institutional guidelines (optional)
Substantive Editing (mechanical & stylistic)
The term “substantive” means “of or relating to the essence or substance; essential.” Substantive editing engages with the very essence of your writing, helping you unleash the power of your ideas. In addition to the mechanical aspects of basic Copyediting as described above, Substantive Editing involves stylistic oversight.
Substantive Editing includes all of the items found in Copyediting and:
- Polishing awkward sentences and transitions to improve flow
- Eliminating run-on sentences and tightening wordy prose
- Calling attention to potential race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation bias issues
- Monitoring appropriate use of slang and jargon
- Flagging clichés, stilted phrasing, and archaic usage
- Noting redundancy, repetition, and ambiguity
- Altering passive to active voice (as appropriate)
- Assuring vocabulary, tone, and register align with target audience
Once your text has been copyedited, it will move on to the design and formatting phases of production (we’ll be happy to recommend talented colleagues for indexing, cover design, layout, formatting, and print or digital publishing). When it’s ready for publication, it’s time to subject the finished product to the proofreader’s scrutiny to catch any residual glitches. For a detailed description of what this service entails, see our Proofreading page.
Don’t overlook this critical stage of the publishing process!
Website & Blog Editing
Will your website or blog connect with your intended audience and elicit a response? If Little Fire does the editing, it will! We style your copy to resonate with your target market. Of course, we also ensure grammatical as well as stylistic accuracy and consistency, validate links, and gently critique clarity and usability. (If you need content or writing of any kind created from scratch, we can handle that, too.) What is the integrity of your brand worth?
Professional content editing isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
What can Little Fire do for you? If you’re like most folks, you need some combination of these services. No problem—we’ll craft a customized package to suit your needs. Get in touch and let’s explore the possibilities together.