Does Your Memoir Need to Be Edited?

The short answer is YES.

The longer answer is that there are many different kinds of editing that are important at different stages in your writing journey.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing looks at the big picture issues. Is your memoir starting and ending in the right place? Is there a narrative arc? Is the emotion on the page or does the writing feel flat?

When do I hire a developmental editor?

Writers hire a developmental editor after they have a complete draft of their manuscript (and ideally, their manuscript is in as good a shape as they can get it on their own). The developmental editor delivers an editorial letter outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript; sometimes these developmental edits (also sometimes called manuscript evaluations or assessments) include inline comments as well. The writer then returns to the manuscript to execute the suggested changes.

What's the difference between a book coach and a developmental editor?

A book coach typically offers big-picture feedback similar to a developmental editor, but the big difference is that a book coach is working with the writer in real time, supporting the work from an editorial perspective and also helping with project management and emotional support.

Think of it this way. Imagine you had a goal to run a marathon and you'd never run one before. 

You could go to a running expert who would assess your readiness to complete a marathon by writing up and delivering a report on what you are doing well and what needed to improve in order for you to accomplish your goal. Then you, the runner, would implement her recommendations, on your own.

OR, you could go to a running coach who would assess your readiness, help you develop a plan to close the gap between where you are today and where you needed to be to run that marathon, and then would be alongside you providing support as you implemented that plan—both the technical support you might need as far as your running technique and the emotional support you might need along the way.

Developmental editors are more like running experts and book coaches are more like running coaches.

Should I hire a book coach or a developmental editor?

When to hire a developmental editor:

When you feel like you have taken your manuscript as far as you can on your own AND when you feel like you have the capacity to execute revisions on your own.

When to hire a book coach:

Either at the start of the project when you're looking for support for the whole journey, when you feel stuck and unable to finish a draft on your own, or when you want professional support for a revision. 

Line Editing

As the name suggests, line editing is an edit at the line-level that assumes that the big picture concerns have been addressed. This kind of edit looks at where the prose could be elevated and nuance and additional layers could be added. Typically, this would be the final edit before a manuscript was ready to be queried.

Copy Editing/Proofreading

Copy editing gets very granular at the line-level. Is the text consistent with the Chicago Manual of Style or AP Style? Are all the words used found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary? If the protagonist is 31 at the beginning of the book and the story present is 5 years, is she 36 at the end (if her age is mentioned)? Should there be a break in the text? If yes, should be a "line break"—extra space between the paragraphs indicating a pause? Or an "ornament break"—an obvious demarcation that divides the text, such as a wavy line or three asterisks?

Proofreading is the final step in the editing process, which involves literally making sure there are no typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Sometimes a copy edit and proofread are combined. 

If your manuscript is being published by a traditional publishing house (or in many cases by a hybrid publisher), a copy editor and/or proofreader will be assigned to your project.

If you're self-publishing, at a bare minimum you will want to budget to have your manuscript professionally proofread. That type of editing service is essential for a quality book.

The Bottom Line When it Comes to Editing Your Book:

Your memoir needs edits along the way. This does not mean, however, that you need to spend thousands of dollars on editors.

Inside my Write Yourself Out mentorship and community, I save writers time and money by teaching them a planning process that sets them on the right path from the start; I show them how to self-assess and revise; and I also provide guidelines for constructive feedback from peers and beta readers, as well as when to consider a professional evaluation or edit.

So if you're looking for support from a book coach and an LGBTQ+ writing community, apply to join us!


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