Copy Editing Fiction

Copy Editing for Fiction Authors - photo

There is no one-size-fits-all. Every project is different.

Author checklist – are you ready for copy editing?

You should:

√ Have a complete manuscript with no major rewriting necessary
√ Have the intention to publish, or re-publish with another edition

It’d be great if you:

√ Had thought about any and all requirements you have as part of your brief for the copy editing of your manuscript
√ Are prepared to send me two 1,000-word samples – one from the beginning and one from elsewhere in the manuscript – because the beginning is usually cleaner
√ Know when the deadline is for the copy edit to be completed, if there is one
√ Were as clear as you could be in your communication with me
√ Contact me in sufficient time before the deadline

Before work commences

Sample assessment

Before anything begins I should read one or more samples of your story to assess if and how I can help you, and these samples should be sent as word documents or .mobi files. Two 1,000-word samples may be ideal – one from the beginning and one from elsewhere in the manuscript – because the beginning is usually cleaner than the rest.

It saves us both time – and any nasty surprises if much more work is necessary than envisaged – if we know exactly how much work is required.

Reading your sample makes me familiar with your project and writing style. I’ll then let you know which areas I can help you with, and I can put together a quote if you have asked for one.

Note: it’s at my discretion whether I will offer free copy edited or proofread samples for your perusal. I can see how they may be beneficial to authors in assessing the skill level of a potential copy editor or proofreader, however, on that same note I do not believe sample copy edits or proofreads are representative of the quality authors can expect, which involve decisions made on the complete project, and involve more time. My clients are valuable to me and I believe I can help authors best when I’m working with a complete project.

Special requirements

Deciding on anything you’d like me to look for in addition to, or as well as your expectations of the copy editing service, puts us both ahead of the game. Stating your requirements early may speed up the discussion process if you have a deadline and being clear in general makes us work together more easily.

Clear requirements ˃ realistic project expectations ˃ accurate quote ˃ happy editor and author ˃ the copy edit you wanted in the first place

Please let me know when you Contact.

Copy Editing Fiction Service

What is copy editing?

Copy editing is intended to prepare books for publishing, making sure the text is appropriate for the intended readership, the structure of the publication is logical and complete, and the writer’s message is clear. This is what I will be doing as I work on your project.


There are limitations on how much I can intervene in your project. I won’t be rewriting, or changing your style and voice. Effective copy editing is about keeping the author and the purpose of the project in mind. I’ll be intervening more than with proofreading but any major changes or suggestions will be queried. Any errors or inconsistencies usually associated with proofreading such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation will be checked with my Copy Editing Fiction service.

What does my copy editing fiction service include?

What my service includes will be different for every project, depending on what I may find in my sample assessment and on what special requirements you have for your brief.

Processes involved in my copy editing fiction service


  • Get a feel for your writing style and voice
  • Highlight the obvious errors, and add queries
  • Make notes, summarising the main facts and descriptions about your story for understanding and consistency
  • Record style decisions in a style sheet
  • Mark anything I’m unsure about to return to
  • Resolve any priority areas that should be addressed
  • Use my judgement, consulting style guides or recommended reference books when necessary

Potential priority areas in copy editing fiction

  • Finding errors or inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalisation, hyphenation, number
  • US or UK (or other) spelling
  • Point of view
  • Past or present tense
  • Third or first person
  • Sentence-level: repetition, superfluous words, exposition, ambiguous or unclear phrasing
  • Queries: reader sensitivity, illogical order, inconsistencies, structural changes or rewriting (if necessary), word choice, terminology, suitability for target audience
  • Dialogue: dialogue tag suggestions, punctuation in or around dialogue, quotation marks, who’s the speaker
  • Presentation and formatting: styles, chapter headings, indentation, italics, quotation marks for emphasis, foreign words and phrases, references to works
  • Accuracy and consistency: characters, settings, descriptions, plot, timeline, dates, details, terms, presentation, structure
  • Final check – before I send you your copy edited project I will ensure all corrections are tidy and easy to understand, and that nothing looks out of place.
  • Fact-checking and plausibility checks are not out of the question, among other special requirements you may ask for. Sometimes these will depend on how much time I have and what I spot.
Delivery of your copy edited project

Work will be delivered close to the estimated completion date, and I will do my best to ensure this is before the completion date. I will keep in contact with you about the status of your project to let you know how it’s going and if there are any updates.

I’ll prepare three MS Word versions for you: one with changes and comments, comments only, and no changes or comments. If you would like your project to be marked up or delivered in an alternative way, please let me know when you Contact.