Editing Specifics

Substantive Editing

Fiction substantive editing improves the content of a story.

I help authors improve their storytelling so that the reader is engaged from beginning to end. I advise the author on everything from plot to character development and opening hooks to ending cliffhangers and on avoiding errors that fiction writers commonly make.

Together we ensure that active sentences hold the reader's attention, clichés are weeded out, internal dialogue is handled properly, and POV is used effectively. I work closely with the client to suggest improvements to the reader's experience. 

Coaching Services

Through this service, I help authors develop their craft on a chapter-by-chapter basis. All of the above specifics of substantive editing are applied, and I am available to teach elements of fiction writing as needed.


Authors are welcome to submit their first three chapters for an overall assessment of writing strengths and challenges, for an in-depth critique, or for both.

Critiques of whole manuscripts are available and would include an overall assessment of the story, including character development, plot, story arc, POV, use of dialogue and action, and opening hooks and cliffhangers.


While editing improves the content of a story, copyediting improves the readability of a story.

I go through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and correct mechanical errors and inconsistencies.

I also create a style sheet to keep track of things like characters, time lines, relationships between the characters, non-English words, consistency of spelling and formatting, internal references within the manuscript, and dates; and I flag areas that are potentially confusing or disorienting to readers.


Proofreading takes place after the manuscript has been edited and typeset.

This may include checking accuracy of running heads and folios, checking page breaks, inserting or checking page numbers to contents and page references, and flagging and checking location of art.

Proofreading may be done against a marked up copy or in isolation.

Other than minor spelling and punctuation corrections, changes in the text at this point often require reformatting of the entire manuscript, thus increasing the author or publisher's total cost to publish the book.

If copyediting is done well prior to the manuscript being typeset, the total cost for proofreading is minimal.

Proofreading is a crucial step to avoid printing books with errors that ultimately detract from the reading experience.

Elements of Fiction

Christian fiction often has thirty-four elements of fiction that must be addressed in order to produce an excellent manuscript. Of course shorter works of fiction do not contain all of these elements.

Fiction elements for novel-length manuscripts: 

  • novel formatting
  • opening hooks and chapter ending hooks
  • first chapter elements
  • point of view (POV)
  • proper dialogue, including tags and beats
  • plot development and research, sub-plots
  • character development and emotions
  • setting
  • information dumps
  • showing vs. telling
  • active vs. passive
  • proper use of flashbacks or back story
  • consistency in character traits and scene props
  • preachiness in Christian novels
  • overused words that mark the writer as a beginner to publishers and agents
  • over-explanation that insults the reader
  • floating body parts (FBPs)
  • pet phrases and words and recycling words
  • using em dashes and ellipses in dialogue and matching dialogue to the characters
  • interior monologue and direct thoughts
  • author intrusion
  • goals, motivation and conflict (GMC) and how to apply it to fix “sagging middle syndrome”
  • purple prose and stilted writing
  • starting consecutive sentences with the same word
  • too much step-by-step action
  • foreshadowing, flash-forward, and red-herrings
  • the five senses and beyond
  • metaphors, mixed metaphors, and similes
  • avoiding the “mirror” effect
  • viewing scenes as mini-stories
  • editing for writing style
  • book title
  • prologues and epilogues
  • the proper ending

Follow Me on Pinterest