What are the types of fiction editing?

April 28th, 2020 by Jane Turner

There are, essentially, three different types of fiction editing that your book should undergo after your self-edit.

  • Developmental / structural
  • Copy/Line
  • Proofreading

Some will add a fourth level by splitting Copy and Line editing into two different tasks, but I cannot see them that way—indeed, I find it impossible to split them.

Note, though, that these are only for fiction – non-fiction requires a couple of extra steps: indexing and fact-checking.

Let’s have a look at what these three types of fiction editing involve, so you can be sure to receive an accurate quote for services you require.

Scrabble tiles spelling 'Words'

Developmental (or Structural) Edit

This is the ‘big picture’ edit. Your developmental editor will review your book for structure, plot, character development, world-building and dialogue, to name a few.

A developmental editor will advise you on:

  • plot holes,
  • scenes to change/cut or expand,
  • chapters to cut,
  • paragraphs to move, and
  • whether your dialogue suits characters you’ve created and/or the situations.

You’ll also get advice on whether your characters are dimensional, relatable and fit the roles you intend (Does your anti-hero need more anti? Is your villain needing a dose of antagonism?)

33 South Textworks does not yet offer full developmental editing, though we can advise on flow and structure as part of our copy editing services. If you require a developmental edit, we can refer you to trusted colleagues.


Copy / Line Editing

There is debate and discussion on whether Copy and Line editing are the same service, with compelling arguments for both sides. Traditionally, a copy edit focuses more on errors and consistency, while a line edit will focus on prose and grammar. Personally, I can’t look at grammar without looking at prose. I think copy and line edits are connected on various levels and should be treated as one service, which is how I explain it here.

Your copy editor examines your manuscript line by line, sentence by sentence, checking:

  • consistency (Wasn’t their car blue a couple of chapters ago? I’m sure Mr Philbin was spelled differently on page 18),
  • grammar (she could care less),
  • accuracy (before 1992, Volkswagons did not have airbags),
  • readability (does the brain ‘trip over’ anything?), and
  • flow (I think moving paragraphs will help)

Your copy editor will adhere to your Style Sheet, or create one for you if you don’t have one. As a copy edit makes line-level changes to your document, expect quite a bit of markup when your document is returned!

A Copy Edit will catch typos and transpositions, but there is no substitute for a final Proofread.


After the Copy Edit, send your book for a Beta read. Check my services page or my post on self-editing for information on Beta reading.



Proofreading is the final stage before publication: the final chance to fix typos, punctuation, grammar, and formatting issues. A proofread should only be undertaken if the manuscript has already been extensively edited and, ideally, undergone Beta reading.

Note: 33 South Textworks will not proofread manuscripts we have copy edited. The best way to get an effective proofread is to come to the text cold—and text we have previously copy edited will be familiar, therefore more likely to miss things.


For more information on how we can help you with your manuscript, see our Services page.

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