Or, What Makes a Good Copyeditor

Copyeditors help writers with their writing. They are that second set of professional eyes who painstakingly go line by line through a ‘final draft’ and check every word of every sentence, and every paragraph of every chapter. They patiently root out any and all spelling and grammatical mistakes, highlight them and, along the way, make comments, notes, and suggestion.

Invariably, and I say this because I’m a working editor, a great read is usually the result of another hard working editor doing their job, and doing their job well. But even the best copyeditor can’t make a bad novel better. Only the writer can do that. It is up to the writer, on receipt of an editor’s copy, to go through each and every change suggested and ask themselves any number of questions along the lines of:

• Is the change good?
• Does the change work in context, i.e., with the story I’m telling?
• If I don’t accept the change how will it affect the paragraph/chapter/book overall?
• Is the change grammatically correct but stylistically wrong?
• How will this suggestion help improve this chapter/character, or the overall story or flow?
• Does this section need to be rewritten, dumped altogether, or does it just need to be moved?

And so the list goes on. One thing a good editor does is force the writer to stop and think. And better they get it right before a book gets launched than after, when a reviewer wades in with an opinion that can make or break your work.