Freelance editing can vary from editor to editor. I’m putting myself out there as an author and sharing editor comments on my novel Evolution. Thirteen editors performed a Story Edit on my manuscript. Below, you’ll see comments from six of those editors.
I’ve included Evolution Scene One at the end of the post. You may want to read that first to help you understand the editor’s comments.
Below are real editor samples from editors who took the Fictionary Certified StoryCoach program. . Not all the editors went on to be certified. After the taking the course, the the certified editors were all trained to perform in in-depth, comprehensive story edit. They’ll go on to provide exceptional edits for their writing clients.
As part of the the Fictionary Certified StoryCoach program, each editor performed a story edit on Evolution.
I asked the editors to focus on a Story Edit and not to copyedit. In Manuscript Editing: Two Editors Compared, I show the dangers of copyediting while performing a story edit.
When evaluating the feedback from the editors, I looked for:
- Writer encouragement (did they motivate or discourage the writer)
- Actionable advice (specific versus vague advice)
Freelance Editing Comparison
Each editor worked in StoryCoach and used the per scene Notes capability to provide this feedback while they performed a Story Edit. What you’re not seeing are how the editors filled out the Fictionary Story Elements. I’ll use the comments they made on the Story Elements along with sentence-level comments they made using track changes on the text and the per scene comments included below to improve my story.
Here are the comments each editor made on scene 1 of Evolution.
I think this is a great opening scene. There’s clearly tension, Jaz is hurting, doesn’t want to be with her family. I think though, that there needs to be a little bit more description of the scenery. Thee
Great opening scene. You immediately place the protagonist in a tough place, dealing with the death of her husband, and you lay down some dramatic questions to create interest in the reader: How did he die? Why is Alyssa at the funeral? Who is the mysterious man, and why is he staring intently at Jaz and Katie?
The scene is a little spare in terms of sensory details. Sensory details keep the “stage” and characters interesting. Without them, both the setting and characters will seem flat. Using the POV character’s senses to describe action will bring your reader closer to the character — which could be used to great effect in this first, very emotional scene.
Also, the setting itself is a little vague. Is this happening in a funeral home, in a church or chapel, or in some other place? Specifying which it is would not only help the reader imagine where this is taking place but also provide information to the reader about Jaz and Nick.
This is a strong opening, which could be stronger. It’s important to establish your POV character right away, rather than piecemeal. We didn’t know Jaz’s name until nearly the end, and we didn’t know she was female until the last paragraph.
The sense of claustrophobia and her anxiety about the possibility of dealing with her family are intriguing and though the warmth between her and Katie is obvious and well done, but I’m not sure what their relationship is. Sisters? Friends? I’d like a little more action and introspection to break up the long stretch of dialogue between them. Overall, well done!
This is a terrific opening. We are immediately in the story as it’s a funeral. Her husband has died, and given the genre, we wonder HOW?! There is tension and even the hint of conflict as she has a friend trying to help her cope — with wanting to run and family. There is obviously a lot going on. The scene is very short and could perhaps be grounded more in the sensory and in the backstory. Just saying, as readers, we want to know more! Great scene. Especially the ending. Why does she throw up? Why does she bolt? Sadness and her inner demons? Or something about his death?
I have marked the scene as anchored as we know Jaz is at a funeral. The details of the setting are missing and need more depth.
This editor did not leave comments for scene one.
Freelance Editing: Manuscript Editing Comparison
Each of theses editors performed a different level of a Story Edit and most of them resisted the urge to spend too much time on copyediting.
The first four editors initial comment was positive. This motivates a writer and gets them in a positive frame of mind. I know this to be true since I’m the writer. The fifth editor said nothing positive, and the sixth editor didn’t make any comments.
Here I’ve noted the advice that is specific and therefor actionable. It means, as a writer, I know how to revise my scene.
Specific: I think though, that there needs to be a little bit more description of the scenery. She’s at a funeral but it’s not clear if she’s outside or inside. I don’t know whether it’s a burial or cremation or something else.
Specific: Also, the setting itself is a little vague. Is this happening in a funeral home, in a church or chapel, or in some other place? Specifying which it is would not only help the reader imagine where this is taking place but also provide information to the reader about Jaz and Nick.
The following advice is vague, and as a writer, I’m not sure how to add more sensory detail of backstory. What should I add? What backstory might be interesting. I’m not saying and editor should tell me what to add,
Vague: The scene is very short and could perhaps be grounded more in the sensory and in the backstory. The comment from Editor 1 “She’s at a funeral but it’s not clear if she’s outside or inside. I don’t know whether it’s a burial or cremation or something else.” gives me a starting place. I’ll go back and add detail that answers these questions.
After a Story Edit
Now the hard work comes of rewriting this scene. You can see that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make this scene powerful. Most of it relates to the lack of sensory depth. I must add new sentences, revise existing sentences, and perhaps moves things around. If the editors had spent too much time copyediting, it would have wasted their time and mine. It’s very tempting as an author to accept copyediting changes because it feels productive, but it’s not helping me tell a powerful story.
Scene 1: Evolution (Before the Story Edit)
Funerals suck. And for more than the obvious reasons.
Death was there, along with sadness and grief, but the real problem was the gathering of people. Too many people. People who knew me and wanted to offer their condolences.
Some of them were not familiar. Who were they and how did they know Nick? Or had I met them and forgotten?
If Nick were here and not in that awful coffin, he would help me through this. How would I live without him? And did I want to?
Across the crowd, I noticed an old friend from school. I glanced away before she saw me recognize her. I hadn’t spoken to Alyssa in ten years, so what was she doing here?
Katie slipped her hand into mine, and I held on tight.
“Jaz, don’t run,” she whispered into my ear. “You can do this.”
“Take a deep breath. I’ll stay with you.”
“Who’s that man over there?”
Katie checked him out and shook her head. “I don’t recognize him.”
“It’s odd how intensely he’s staring at us.” I turned my back to him. “Crap. Here comes my family.”
“They’re here to support you.”
“I know. It’s just…”
My family closed in on me, and sweat peppered the back of my neck. I loved them. They were good to me. There were just so many of them.
Surrounded in a group hug, I ached to be alone. We moved inside and sat in our reserved seats.
“We’re here today to celebrate the life of Nick Cooper…”
I rested my head on Katie’s shoulder, and the words disappeared. I had nothing to celebrate. My husband was gone. Just a few days before his thirty-fifth birthday.
Katie held my hand until the end of the service.
I excused myself to use the bathroom and instead of turning into the ladies room, I kept walking until I found a backdoor. I rushed outside and threw up.
Then I bolted.
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