What are the objectives of book editing?

Book Editing

Book editing: meaning and importance

Ever wondered what book editing involves? Well, it is far more than just looking out for grammar and spelling mistakes. It’s actually a process that should result in improving the presentation of ideas to readers, even to a publishable standard, and often involves revising and reorganising the content.

So, yes, book editors do correct wording, punctuation and syntax, but they also look for gaps in logic and the clarity of sentences to see if they need rewriting or structuring. They may also assess plot and character arcs to see if they’re believable, consistent and well developed.

How much they do depends what kind of editing they are doing, but it’s important to understand that the book editing process is just as important as the writing itself. This is where elements are smoothed over and improved, problems are identified and corrected, and the writing is polished until it shines.

Types of objectives depending on the main goal

Many writers aren’t always too clear about why they are editing their book or what their goal is in the editing process. They might simply say to an editor:

My novel needs to be better.

The story should jump off the page more.

Please look for plot holes or places the story lags.

Can you tidy up the manuscript please? My spelling isn’t very good.

There is nothing wrong with these statements, but editors often need a bit more information than this before they get started on a manuscript. Fortunately, they understand the process and the editing options, even if the writer doesn’t. Let’s take a look at them now as it’s good to understand the types of book editing services that are available and what help a writer might need.

There are different levels of book editing that vary in goal and budget. The choice of these may depend on what an author can afford, but also on what their writing warrants or what they feel they need done to their story. In other words, it’s about where they are at in the writing/editing process.

There are different levels of book editing that vary in goal and budget. The choice of these may depend on what an author can afford, but also on what their writing warrants or what they feel they need done to their story. In other words, it’s about where they are at in the writing/editing process.

Book editing usually provides variations on these main elements:

Developmental editing

This should come early in the process and consider the wider structure of the novel, the plot and characterisation. This is where major restructuring happens.

Copy editing

Copy editing or line editing often come after several rewrites to correct additional errors in syntax and spelling. It is about removing typos on a line-by-line basis and is not about the big picture anymore. Copy editors may also look at style consistency across the novel.

Proof reading

This is performed on the final, formatted book before publication. It picks up final errors that may have appeared in the document during the copyediting process.

All books require proof reading and copy editing, but these services are designed for writers that have already done quite a bit of work on their manuscript and they are in the final stages of polishing, or they simply write clearly and have a great structure in place already. Therefore, a goal of simply “making the novel better” is about a final polish.

However, for other writers, there are issues with the organisation of the chapters and chronological sequencing of the work, they may need major rewriting to present ideas more clearly, or the goals and motivations of the characters might be vague or non-existent. For stories with these issues, developmental editing is required. In this case, making the story “jump off the page” is about improving scene opening and closing sequences, showing the reader a character’s internal and external goals, and providing a variety of action and sequel sequences.

If a writer is not sure what their goal is in the editing process, don’t know what the story needs, and/or can’t work it out even with this summary, they can get their work assessed by a professional editor, such as through our free sample process. Simply submit a section of the manuscript and we will provide a sample edit and a summary of what editing level we recommend. This will help writers determine where they are at in the editing process and what we can do to help. It may also help writers reframe their goals about the editing, and understand the objectives that relate to their story.

Goal 1, 2, 3, 4 …

Editors have a lot of things to consider when they start working on a new writing project, but their overall goal is always to eliminate anything that prevents a reader from fully engaging in the story. Unusual word choice and plot inconsistencies are one thing, but here are some other things that are part of the editing process. Writers that understand these goals/elements may also find it improves their work.


Editors can and should get lost in stories just like a reader does. If this is fairly seamless, there is usually what we call a “good flow” or “good presentation of ideas”. The world is believable, it’s realistic, the characters are genuine and we can follow a developing story arc. The reading is effortless, and if not, the editor works it until “it’s all gravy”.


Editors assess the chapter arrangement, length and number in your work. Some may be too long, too short, they may not open or close well, they may not be well anchored in time or location or characters, or may not even break in a good position in the plot. This stuff can be a bit of a headache, but editors are trained to look for all these elements.

Character voices

If characters act in the way humans act in real life, and their motivations and desires are plausible, the editor will be pleased. If not, they will comment on it and direct writers to areas they can improve.


Believe it or not, there are a few rules related to dialogue and there is nothing more irritating to an editor than writers that don’t follow the basics of these. This relates to punctuation, when to open new paragraphs, how to group paragraphs, and a lot more. Editors eat this stuff up.

Plot and subplot

The plot and subplot are the sequence of events that form the story. Along with the pacing and flow, these need to hang together to form a good story. A lot of the uniqueness of a story comes down to just how realistic it is. Editors constantly ask themselves, would this happen in real life? Now, clearly, Harry Potter’s world of quidditch and flying broomsticks doesn’t exist, but the team structure, rules and game plans are believable. The editor looks at whether magical or crazy events are believable in the story, and if those ideas form the basis of a good plot.


The pacing of a story should match the mood of the scenes. If it’s a tense, action scene, sentences might get shorter, more concise and full of action. There could be sounds. Less description. Tension. Suspense. But where the story is expository, you can write in long, descriptive sentences. Characters might pause for self-reflection and give the reader a break from the action. Pacing really helps carry the mood of your plot.


The point of view refers to who is telling the story. If this shifts from one person to the next (head hopping), or from first to third person, with a bit of singular or omniscient voice thrown in, well, that’s quite a contorted mixture. Writers that do this can expect an editor to point it out and recommend changes..


Editing is often a multi-stage process. And whatever final level you submit it for professional book editing, your manuscript should go through a developmental editing, copy editing and proof reading process. In fact, it probably should go through these stages several times.

It also goes without saying that when you’re ready to get professional book editing, our editors can help you transform it further.

Frequently Asked Questions

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