The Difference Between Editing and Revising
This wasn t a reimagining of the manuscript she was always a poisoner, and I tried to put her heightened sense of smell into even the first draft.
The Difference Between Editing and Revising
There’s an important difference between editing and revising, although writers tend to use “editing” and “revising” as interchangeable terms to mean anything other than drafting. You’ll need to do both, so it’s helpful to understand the difference. In this blog post, we’ll focus on revising, which includes more large-scale changes than editing.
The difference between editing and revising: Revision is the zoomed-out view of your story, while editing tackles the fine details.
A revision should be a reimagining, a step back to look at the story from a macro level. This requires, above all other things, a little bit of time. You won’t be able to see how well your story is working if the scenes are still fresh from your fingers. Putting a manuscript aside for a while—I’d recommend at least a month—allows a little more distance.
Questions for Revision
One important difference between editing and revising is that while editing polishes what’s there, revising questions everything on the page. These questions should include the following:
Are there supporting characters who fill the same function and could be combined?
This list of questions—which could be expanded to several pages—guides the needs of a revision. Maybe, with the distance of a month or two, you realize that your protagonist is actually kind of a bump on a log who is carried along by the story. You need interesting characters! In that case, revision would involve making the protagonist more active and giving that character more opportunities to put events into motion. Maybe you see that your ending falls apart. This usually means revisiting the beginning so that the right seeds are planted, nurtured along, and developed over the course of the manuscript.
Manuscripts often require several levels of revision before they are ready to move into the editing phase. When agents request a “revise and resubmit,” they don’t want you to simply fix the three paragraphs they’ve pointed out. They want a reimagining of the manuscript, a thorough and in-depth tackling of the issues they’ve pointed out—and more. Because I guarantee that when you sink your teeth into a revision, you will always find more ways to improve it.
Questions for editing
For our purposes, editing is the treatment on the micro level once those big-picture problems have been addressed. Here are some editing questions to apply to your manuscript:
For example, I wrote a story about a poisoner who smells things that other characters might not. I did a read-through of the manuscript just to find places to insert her observations for odors or to make comparisons using her sense of smell. This wasn’t a reimagining of the manuscript—she was always a poisoner, and I tried to put her heightened sense of smell into even the first draft. But by editing the manuscript with just this one trait in mind, the story improved.
The last level of revision that a manuscript undergoes is editing at a word level for grammar mistakes (spoiler alert—it’s usually commas!), word choice, and formatting.
Should I worry about the difference between editing and revising?
The difference between editing and revising is sometimes a blurry line, and that’s okay. Writing can be a messy process, and as long as you are examining your manuscript at both a macro and a micro level, it doesn’t matter too much whether you call it revising or editing.
Hiring an editor can help at any level of the writing process. It makes sense to hire an editor for content development—that revision level, where the story as a whole is tackled—before you spend money on line editing or copyediting. Beta readers and critique partners are also a wonderful resource, especially at the revision phase, when you need feedback on whether the mystery’s solution is too obvious or too obscure, whether your characters are compelling, and whether the plot makes sense. Once you have revised and edited your manuscript yourself and need fresh eyes on your manuscript, the Good Story Company is here to help.
Amy reads everything and writes historical fantasy. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are both in humanities. She lives in sunny Colorado in a house full of board games and teenagers.
Yes, Your Book Will Need Both Editing AND Revising!
Most books all have their weak points, and by revising, you can help make those weaker points into stronger elements that will help your book become a more cohesive work. There s an important difference between editing and revising, although writers tend to use editing and revising as interchangeable terms to mean anything other than drafting.
Nothing will make an editor drop a manuscript into the rejection pile faster than weak characters, irrelevant details and incomplete thoughts.