What to Expect From the Editing Process
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
If your manuscript is about to undergo three rounds of editing, you may be curious how long this process will take and what to expect from the process. While every editor is different, you should have an idea of the time commitment that is expected from you during the process.
FIRST ROUND OF EDITS: These are generally called comprehensive, developmental, or content edits, depending on the editor you choose. During this round, the editing will have a focus on big-picture issues and developmental suggestions. Check out this article for a more in-depth look at what that might include.
How long will it take? After you get through the waiting period to fit into your editor's schedule, the waiting period for editing could depend on a number of factors: how quickly they can edit, how many times they read through your manuscript, if editing is a part-time or full-time job for them, etc. Personally, for a novel with 80,000 words, I would quote you somewhere between 2-4 weeks, depending on the rest of my schedule during that time.
What's expected from you? After you receive a time estimate from your editor, take a look at your own calendar. Once you get the comprehensive edit back, you'll be expected to read through it and spend a good chunk of time implementing the changes before sending it back for a copyedit. As a courtesy to your editor, be up front if this stage will take you a long time due to your schedule or other time commitments. Your editor will have to fit your copyedit into their schedule, so it benefits both of you to communicate about timing openly. If you have already set a start date for the second round of edits and you don't think you'll make it through the first round by that time, let your editor know as soon as possible so they can reschedule and fill that space in their schedule. If you reschedule too close to the start date, many editors will charge a rescheduling fee to make up for lost work during that time.
SECOND ROUND OF EDITS: Depending on your editor, you may be receiving copyedits, line edits, or a combination of both during this stage. Despite the variance in names, the second round of edits usually takes a detail-oriented focus.
How long will it take? A copyedit can often take longer than a comprehensive edit since your editor has to pay attention to every sentence, word, and comma. It is extremely detail-oriented work. However, I still try to quote around 2-4 weeks for 80,000 words, depending on my schedule, because this is my full-time job, and I know you're probably anxious to get your manuscript back.
What's expected from you? Once you get the edits back, the implementation of changes won't be so large-scale, but it could still be time-consuming, as you have to use the Track Changes function and accept or decline the suggested edits. While you can mass-accept all the edits, you should make sure that you trust your editor's style entirely because you never know when you might disagree with a change in sentence structure. Additionally, if you don't go through the edits one by one, you run the risk of introducing additional errors, so make sure to do a final read through afterward.
It's important to note that some editors don't want you to accept or decline the tracked changes directly. Rather, they'll want you comment "stet" or something similar if you wish to revert a change. Then, when they receive the working manuscript from you, they'll accept all the changes except for the ones you've stetted. This allows them to know that your decision to revert a change was purposeful and should be carried over in future rounds of editing—this is usually noted in the style sheet.
FINAL ROUND OF EDITS: The proofreading stage should be the easiest stage for you, the author. You let your editor do a final read through to make sure that all edits were implemented correctly, make sure that no additional errors were introduced in the process, and check for any lurking errors.
How long will it take? This stage shouldn't take as long as the previous two, but it again depends on your editor's schedule. Also, if your proofreader is different from the editor you used previously, it may take them a little longer if they are not familiar with your story already. For a book with 80,000 words, where I provided the first two rounds of edits, I would estimate probably 2 weeks for the final read through.
What's expected from you? When you receive the final edits, there should be minimal changes to implement. This is a good sign. You just have to accept those final edits, and that's all. Communicate with your editor about any questions you have.
ADDITIONAL FACTORS: While the above descriptions let you know a little of what to expect from each stage, keep in mind that communication with your editor is also an expectation. They may have questions about the plot, or you may have questions about their suggestions. Clear and quick communication between an editor and author can make the whole process move like a dream. Be willing to communicate and accessible throughout the process.