What to expect from a structural edit…

What to expect from a structural edit

So I’ve almost completed the structural edit for Wish You Were Here. There’s work to be done- of course there is, but on the whole, I’m pretty happy. Thankfully Nicola, my editor, likes the story and the characters- so that’s a great big sigh of relief from me.

The biggest piece of rewriting this time around has been in the second half of the book- mainly to do with the way in which I bring my characters together. Nicola has come up with some ideas to strengthen this and make it more believable.

Naturally there’s more throughout the manuscript as well, but none of it rankled with me and all of Nicola’s suggestions have made perfect sense. The story will absolutely be in better shape once I’m finished.

The hardest part of the structural edit process is the first time you get your edit back. The book you’ve laboured over has issues that need to be corrected. What’s worse, someone is telling you about that. It’s the literary equivalent of asking ‘Does my bum look fat in these jeans?’ and receiving an honest answer: ‘Actually, yes, it does. And your tummy is hanging over the top; the pockets in the back are doing you no favours; the colour is a tad 2015 and you might want to reconsider the waist height at your age.’

Here’s the deal:  you’re paying your editor to tell you what isn’t working with your book. 

What’s a structural edit, I hear you ask? Rather than looking at grammatical details, typos and spelling issues, a structural edit does a deep dive into:

  • Pacing
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Characterisation
  • Motivations
  • Voice
  • Perspective/ Point of View
  • Consistency
  • Readability

A good editor should be able to provide suggestions that shape and organise the manuscript- with a view to improving the flow of words, and the overall telling of the story. A good editor should be able to do all of this while keeping in mind my- the writer’s- intention.

What you should get back from a structural edit is:

  • A report giving you an overall idea of the shape that the manuscript is in, the parts that the editor thinks works…overall…and the areas that don’t.
  • A marked up copy of your manuscript with constructive comments and suggested alternatives or rewrites.
    Some editors will split this into two parts, and quote for each separately. In these cases, you’ll get a report or assessment done on your manuscript, an opportunity to put the suggestions into practice, and then the structural edit will be an additional step. This can be good if you want to prepare a manuscript for submission, have no idea which direction the story is heading in, or simply want to know what track you’re on.

Generally speaking, your structural report should help you look under the covers of your manuscript- see the wood amongst the trees…so to speak. It may contain suggestions regarding moving chapters, changing tense or perspective and possibly sending your characters in a different direction than you had planned for them. Some suggestions you’ll agree with, some you’ll dig your heels in about.

The end point to all of this is to make your story the best that it can possibly be.

Your editor will usually quote you an approximate price based on word count and anticipated hours. The more work your manuscript needs, the longer your structural report and the higher the price…it’s that simple.  Therefore it makes good economic sense to have your work as tight as you know how to make it before sending it through.

What’s next?

Copy edit- when those pesky grammatical and spelling issues are highlighted and corrected. My editor is busy, so to make sure I work to deadline, I booked that in when I got the structural edit back.

In between, I need a cover…and to confirm my publication date.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

I use Nicola O’Shea from Ebookedit for all my editing.

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