An editor will ensure your writing is grammatically correct, and that punctuation is used accurately, but what else will they do? In this series of posts I’ll be exploring other aspects of the copy editing stage.
The key to a copy editor’s job is ensuring consistency in the writing itself, in the characters and settings portrayed and in the story/piece of writing as a whole. Here I explore what’s meant by consistency of characters and setting.
As well as the language itself, your copy editor will be checking the characters. Didn’t that blue-eyed character have brown eyes in the last chapter? Why is that only child talking about her brother? Why is that man arriving on his motorbike then driving two people home?
Is your character Isaac or Issac? Sheila or Shiela? Did you change someone’s name partway through the writing, only to miss one or two occurrences? or even change a character from male to female throughout, but still have them chatting with their male friends in the gents’ toilets?
If his defining characteristic is cowardice, why is he suddenly risking his life to stand up something trivial? If he’s known for his generosity, why is he not being generous this time, when it could be expected? How can he know that character’s name when they haven’t been introduced yet?
If the setting is a bungalow, why is someone walking upstairs? If the bathroom is on the left, why are they now turning right for it? If their garden was described as a perfectly laid out, formal garden, why is someone creeping through the long grass?
Has your town changed names halfway through the story? Is it a town in one chapter and a village in another? Are they travelling on cobblestones in the first half of the book, to have the paths revert to muddy tracks in the second half? Has town C suddenly shifted to being on the road between A and B, rather than beyond B?
Again, the style sheet is a vital tool for checking descriptions and situations and keeping everything straight, and can be passed forward to subsequent projects.