Substantive (or Structural) Editing: Intensive evaluation of sections, chapters, or the full manuscript looking at organization, tone, consistency, pacing, clarity, and closure. The standards for substantive editing use The Chicago Manual of Style and the manuscript genre’s conventions as benchmarks for the evaluation.
Substantive editing of a manuscript is a detailed, systematic edit. It includes a discussion of the feedback from any beta readers. I make notes throughout the manuscript, using the track changes tool in MS Word or pencil if working on a hard copy. I provide a detailed written report with the results of the evaluation and recommendations for needed changes. The substantive edit is an intensive look at the material. Our substantive editing process begins with a close read of the material, and by the time the edit is completed, it’s read no less than twice and usually three times.
Copious, detailed suggestions are incorporated into a typed summary document that typically ranges from 5-15 pages, depending on the manuscript length and findings. The notes include detailed instructions for revisions on a page-by-page basis, as well as preliminary comments about the major issues. On the electronic manuscript edits, detailed notes on those specific sentences to which I refer in my notes are included so the author can see exactly where the edits need to be made. Unless prior agreement is made to include ghostwriting the revisions needed (an extra fee), it is the writer’s decision and responsibility to incorporate the suggested edits into the manuscript.
The Substantive Editing Process
Incorporates all aspects of Heavy Copyediting (see below), unless otherwise requested
Checks appropriateness of material for target market
Suggests reformatting to communicate the message
Recommends rewrites and restructured text to fit the format and genre
Recommends moving paragraphs and sentences to improve pacing and information flow
Identifies inconsistent voice
Evaluates transitions from chapter to chapter, section to section, and closure of subplots
Examines understandable focus, development, organization, clarity, visual elements, consistent structure
Identifies gaps in content, inconsistencies in style
Deletes outdated content or content that does not achieve the desired focus or tone
Makes recommendations for style and general content of illustrations and diagrams (NF)
Checks for clear, concise, comprehensible wording without run-on sentences or fragments
Checks references for accuracy of links, etc. and ease in finding (NF)
Conveys authority and professionalism (NF)
Alters, if agreed in advance, content to meet the recommendations of publisher
Fractional edits are edits of a specific section of a manuscript, i.e. Chapters 1 – 5, for a specific writing art such as the opening hook for fiction or statement of purpose for non-fiction, or a complete manuscript look at chapter transitions. Fees are based on section length and the topic requested.