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Help! What is a line edit?

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Ok, I am new to serious fiction writing. (I've worked for a newspaper for several years, and written for a local city magazine, but that is different.)

I just joined a local critique group, and they are using terminology I'm not familiar with. What is a line edit and at what point does a manuscript get one?   :new:
#1 - May 14, 2014, 06:53 PM

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Editing typically goes through a few stages:

Developmental editing - looks at big-picture stuff, such as whether you need the beginning, are the characters driving the story, does the plot rise to a big enough crisis, etc., etc.

Line editing - focuses on sentence-level and word-level edits: whether you're overusing modifiers, relying on crutch words, using cliches or inapt figures of speech, etc.

Copy edits/proofreading - grammar, spelling, punctuation, fact checking

This isn't universally definitive, but it gives you a general idea.
#2 - May 14, 2014, 07:17 PM
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Welcome! :)

Generally, writers will do global edits, which are overarching issues with character, plot, setting, etc. They are usually given in a letter rather than within the manuscript itself. Line edits are the next level, when writers address the manuscript line-by-line. There still may be bigger issues at play, but they are being looked at on a micro level rather than a macro level.

So a global edit note might be: Character B doesn't feel fully fleshed out.
And a line edit might be: I don't believe Character A would say that. OR I'm having trouble picturing the characters' physicality here.

Others will probably explain it better than me. LOL. Good luck!
#3 - May 14, 2014, 07:18 PM
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Yes, that's generally how things work when you have a book under contract.

For critique-group purposes, it's similar. Some readers focus more on plot and character development, and some more on line edits. Some writers might ask that you don't do line edits particularly, as they're worried more about the big picture working out first. Some might be about to send it out and this is more a final critique after doing a bunch of revisions, and so they ask for line edits to make sure that they haven't left a sentence in twice, or that they don't have a bunch of grammatical mistakes or typos.
#4 - May 15, 2014, 05:07 AM

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Asingrey,


You've gotten great information here. I'll just add this: some critiquers focus primarily on line edits, without paying attention to the big picture items first. This is a big no-no in my book, kind of like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Big picture first, then when the story is nearly there--which might takes many revisions and many months--line edits. Save the ship first!


Jody
#5 - May 15, 2014, 05:17 AM
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Thanks everyone! That was really helpful!
#6 - May 15, 2014, 07:24 AM

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