Good dark fiction isn’t just about story. Equally important are the clarity, readability, and style of your writing. After finishing a work of dark fiction, if you want to improve it, you need to concentrate on how you communicate your ideas. That’s where line editing comes in.
Can you do it all?
Examine how well your paragraphs and sentences fit together. Do they flow from one to the next? Do your words successfully evoke the tone you’re going for? Is your language precise and understandable, easy to read? Have you executed point of view consistently? Can you cut extraneous words and phrases? And catch those wrong words, overused words, junk words? Did you—?
Whew! Can you do all this—and a hundred other things to simplify and streamline your manuscript? If not, a line editor can.
What does line editing accomplish?
A line edit evaluates and enhances your writing style at the paragraph and sentence level. Line editors don’t scour your manuscript for mechanical errors like copy editors do. Rather, they focus on how you use language to tell your story.
Line editors analyze your writing line by line. They examine the building blocks of your story—chapters, scenes, paragraphs, sentences, clauses—to ensure these components work together.
During this stage, a line editor’s mission is to make your writing as clear as possible by looking at the content, style, tone, and consistency of your prose. Line editing is also called stylistic editing because it focuses specifically on your individual writing style.
The goal of a skilled line editor is to tighten your writing and make it sing.
What’s the difference between line editing and copy editing?
Line editors share certain attributes with copy editors: attention to detail and interest in how language works at the sentence level. But their tasks differ.
Although both line editors and copy editors work line by line, they look for different issues. Line editing focuses on your writing style; copy editing concentrates on the nitty-gritty of mechanics—spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation.
When you should hire a line editor
Line editing should take place after your story draft is complete. In fact, line editors prefer that you’ve done everything you can yourself and see no further way to improve your writing before you share it with them. (I’m one of them.)
If your manuscript has gone through developmental editing, line editing is the next step in the editing spectrum (link coming soon).
Tasks of a line editor
Line editors tackle many issues to make your manuscript better. Here are a few of them.
- Restructure paragraphs and sentences to maximize comprehension, simplicity, and flow
- Break up long paragraphs
- Fix run-on sentences or incomplete sentences
- Revise awkward sentences, split long sentences, streamline sentences with clauses and parentheticals
- Catch misspellings, wrong words, double words, overused words
- Cut unnecessary phrases and words
- Eradicate junk words
- Substitute stronger words for commonly overused words (very, just, still, walked, etc.)
- Suggest stronger words for weak nouns and verbs while minimizing adverbs and adjectives
- Correct dangling participles
- Flag POV errors and explain why and how they need to be rectified
- Tighten dialogue and mend faulty attributions
What I typically do during line editing
During the course of a line edit, I may:
- Point out inconsistencies in the story line
- Flag scenes where the action is confusing or your meaning unclear
- Query you in a manuscript comment about whether you’ve requested and received permission to include those song lyrics in your epigraph (you can’t use them for free, and if you use them without permission, you can be sued for copyright infringement)
- Correct the spelling and capitalization of 7-Eleven and all trademarked names to protect you from legal action
- Recast sentences that begin with There are and It is (no-nos, by the way)
- Mark redundancies that repeat the same information in different ways
- Indicate where tonal shifts occur
- Eliminate confusing or unnecessary narrative digressions
- Suggest changes you could make to improve pacing
- Flag clichés and prompt you to use fresh phrasing
- Vary sentence lengths
I also check for any discrepancies in your setting, plot, and character traits to ensure internal consistency. For example, if you wrote on page 29: “Derek scrubbed a hand over his blond crewcut,” but on page 74 you wrote, “Derek tore at his long, brown hair,” I’ll bring it to your attention. Why?
Because readers hate such gaffes and will drop stars off their reviews of your book. As a writer striving for excellence, you don’t need that.
The cost of line editing
How much does third-party line editing cost?
Editing businesses usually advertise set per-word rates, sometimes with different prices based on turnaround time. On average, expect to pay $0.02–$0.04 per word (around $5.00–$10.00 per page).
The editing and proofreading service, Scribendi, lets you calculate the cost of editing based on your word count. (They lump line and copy editing together.) For example, an 80,000-word novel takes two weeks and costs $1602.86 (as of the date of this post). That comes out to $0.02 per word, or $5.01 per 250-word page. A 4000-word short story with one-week turnaround time costs $129.33 ($0.032 per word, $8.08 per page). With 24-hour turnaround, cost increases to $163.17 ($0.041 per word, $10.20 per page).
With Reedsy, line editing is lumped in with copy editing and costs about $0.02 per word, or $5.00 per page.
I line-edit for $0.02 per word, or $5.00 per page. If you contract for both line and copy editing or line, copy, and proofreading, I offer a discount. See Current dark fiction editing rates.
How we can work together
In addition to doing the edits, I will, if you want, talk through my edits and answer any questions you may have. See video consultation (link coming soon).
If you submit a clean, well-written manuscript, I may be able to do line editing in a single pass; but it will more likely involve two rounds between us. Editing, like writing, is an iterative process.
Need a line editor?
If you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, I’m here to support your goals.
If you need any kind of editing for your dark fiction manuscript, including line editing, check out The Editing Spectrum (link coming soon) and Dark Fiction Editing. I have decades of experience and can help you improve your writing. Then drop me a line about your current project. I can’t wait to hear from you!