Writing Wednesdays: The difference between editing and proofreading

September 13, 2017
Do you know the difference between editing and proof reading your novel?

When I’ve talked about editing previously, I’ve mentioned different stages and different ways to approach it, but something I wanted to talk about briefly is the difference between editing and proofreading, after getting a question through my Tumblr recently.

Both are equally important stages in getting to the final draft of your novel.

Editing is a lot more meaty. It’s more time consuming and requires more real effort on your part. You want to fix up storylines and plots you forgot existed in the second half of the novel. You want to make sure you’re getting the most from your characters. You want to make sure everything flows and works and you haven’t left any glaring issues with the plot.

You can get bogged down in editing for a long time. You might end up rewriting entire sections, ditching whole chapters, scrapping a storyline. It can take a lot of energy and sometimes it might take you longer to edit than it took you to actually write your first draft in the first place.

Proofreading, on the other hand, is a much more final stage.

Now in case you’re confused as to what exactly proofreading is, here’s a quick rundown: It’s more or less where you go through the book to dot the Is and cross the Ts. You’re looking for spelling and grammar mistakes, anything you want to italicise (and other various formatting – inconsistencies as well as just things you forgot to do when you were writing the scene). It’s not the deep-clean stage, or even the tidying stage, like editing is. It’s more like the decorative touches to finish.

In some of my other Writing Wednesdays where I’ve talked about editing, I’ve talked about how one thing that’s worth doing when you start to edit is to just reread the whole draft. (I mean, this is always my go-to when I get into editing now, because then I’m familiar with the whole thing again.) And when you reread, it’s worth keeping an eye for typos and grammar mistakes.

But proofreading as you read through before you edit? That’s not enough. You’ll have added things, changed things, moved things around in the rest of the editing you did. Before you can call it finished, go through your final draft and do your proofreading.

Again: this is where you look for small errors in the actual typing and formatting. You’re not critiquing the story or characters or themes at this point.

When a novel is traditionally published, the publishing house gives you an editor, who goes through and helps you to edit the story and make it the best it can be. But you’ve got a separate proofreader. It’s not their job to challenge you and push you to write about controversial topics or make more of the romance storyline or play up the relationship between two of those characters. That’s with your editor. And once the book gets to proof stages, then your book is most likely finished. There’s no more actual editing to be done.

With any luck, that's cleared a few things up for those of you who weren't entirely sure on the difference between editing and proofreading! Do you have any tips to share on proofreading? Share in the comments below!

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