Written by Sarah Yoon
Though the line edit is more detail-oriented than the developmental, it can be just as intense. The next step down from big-picture work is surprisingly steep. You’ll find yourself surrounded by individual scenes, but you can’t forget the overall flow yet. Seemingly small details are more important than you think.
Each scene needs to be treated as its own cell in the honeycomb. Here are a few elements to consider as you focus on scene-level edits:
Characters: Make sure that your characters’ psychology remains consistent from scene to scene. Their internal state determines reasoning, emotions, and relationships. Make sure to communicate through body language, dialogue, and even descriptions of the scene’s concrete space.
Dialogue: Give your characters unique voices. Consider age, personality, family background, and cultural makeup. Install verbal habits that they don’t even realize they have—ways that they greet others, or how they overuse particular idioms and adjectives.
Consistency: Make sure that facts remain consistent—the color of the door and whether or not the paint is peeling. Even if you only reference it once, you’ll need that reminder to keep discrepancies from sneaking in as you edit. Many writers keep track of these elements through a Story Bible, where every detail is logged for later reference.
While you tighten the story’s seams, consider tightening your prose along with it. Though word choice gets a more detailed look over in the copy edit, that shouldn’t keep you from considering how your prose affects the story as a whole.
Voice: Though a writer’s voice is sometimes revered as a mysterious, abstract element of writing, it’s simply a mixture of sentences—short and long, complex or simple—and of subject choices—abstract or concrete. Check if your voice carries a consistent tone yet fluctuates as the scene requires.
Energy: Tone and voice alter when the scene requires a change in energy. This electric current is a very important undertone throughout your story. How your prose pairs with each scene’s content will help you engage your readers’ emotions and keep them hooked until the very last sentence.
Grammar: Grammar is a minor element in this edit, but if you or an editor find habitual mistakes, you should address them sooner than later. This includes avoiding the passive voice and keeping a close eye on your prepositional phrases. If wordiness overtakes your scene, you’ll end up with a confusing mess.
If it seems overwhelming to tackle all of these in one go, that’s because—well—it is. Try focusing on one or two elements so you can give proper attention to each element. When you feel confident that you have a solid plot, rounded characters, and sculpted prose, move on to the next tier of editing: the copy edit.
If you’re in need of an editor, feel free to contact Sarah Yoon for rate and service details.