Why did I start copy editing fiction?
Copy editing started out as a possible extension of proofreading skills, to see what else I could learn and perhaps offer as services. I also wanted to know what the difference was between the two skills, and it later made sense to apply these skills to fiction because of my background.
Underlying these thoughts was the need to improve the quality of my writing before publishing, or regardless of it. When self-editing my own writing, similar skills to copy editing can be applied. I do realise it isn’t recommended to copy edit my own writing before publishing because of the lack of distance from my own material, and I don’t get the same pleasure copy editing my own work that I do working on somebody else’s for this reason.
What does copy editing fiction mean to me?
I’ll first answer this by saying what it doesn’t mean to me because I think it is important that editors and authors don’t get the wrong idea about how the skill is carried out. Copy editing fiction isn’t about mechanically tearing through the writing to ‘improve it’ by making it conform to the rigours of editing expertise.
The author’s style, voice, and character of the writing should remain intact and be complemented by copy editing intervention. Sometimes this can involve looking for specific problems that crop up repeatedly or that have appeared in similar projects, but this does not change how an editor should treat a project, as a unique piece of writing by an individual or publisher who may also have specific requirements.