Content editing is the art of working on the language of someone’s manuscript and enhancing, where appropriate, everything from the storyline of a novel and the details of a memoir to the presentation in a business book and the style components of the self-help book.
A talented content editor is much rarer than you might think, because he or she must raise the presentation of a manuscript while honoring the voice that the author has created. Content editing can focus on very specific style elements, such as changing the voice of a piece from passive voice to active voice where appropriate, to more aggressive responses, such as adding descriptive passages where clearly needed in a biography or filling obvious holes in action scenes of a suspense novel.
Content editing is an art form in many ways. To heavy of a hand and the editor threatens to overwhelm the essence of a piece and mask the heart and soul of author’s original intent; to light of a hand and the editor may fail to take the material in question to its highest level of presentation, which, of course, is the ultimate goal.
A content editor may tweak the dialogue in a love scene but must be certain that the scene is better for the changes. A content editor may punch up the lessons and tools that a business book is espousing but must be certain that the reader’s understanding of those tools and lessons is clearer having done so.
Sometimes a content editor must also take on the role of developmental editor, where he or she is presenting the author with insights into obvious holes that appear in a story or a life lesson, thus allowing the author the opportunity to add new writing where needed. Sometimes the author will ask the content editor to fill in these holes, and this is where the editor must also possess the skills of a professional ghostwriter. The task, in such a case, does not change: the goal is still the effective enhancement of the work and a fair representation of the voice established by the author.
Here is one thing that we have found in content editing the many manuscripts that we have at Mark Graham Communications: even the best written pieces can benefit from the discerning eye of an objective editor. There is no shame in seeking this kind of assistance. The best writers are very often the benefactors of the best editors.
While writing begins as a solitary endeavor, it rarely ends that way. We all have our beta readers. Most of us have trusted content editors to bring our writing to its highest level of presentation. And, after all, isn’t that the goal?