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What you need to know about hiring a fantasy editor

If you’ve finished your story, you might be starting to look for a fantasy editor. Hiring an editor is a big deal for any author, and making sure you hire someone with experience in your genre is important.

Here to answer some questions about editing is Aimée Hill of AJ Editorial Services, a fantasy editor who provides developmental editing, line editing, and copyediting services across all fantasy sub-genres.

A book in blue light with a crystal ball and lights behind it.
Image by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

As a fantasy editor, is there anything you wish more fantasy writers knew about editing?

Great question. I am fortunate to work with some really talented authors who know the ropes fairly well. But firstly, I want all authors to know that asking a hundred questions is perfectly acceptable. I’m more than happy to help authors get all the clarity they need to work with an editor.

Also, I often have authors email me saying they are ready to be torn down. I love the enthusiasm to be edited and openness to improve. But I wish more authors know that critique shouldn’t tear you down. This isn’t your “red pen, see me after class” moment. This is an act of thoughtful communication to improve your story and your skills as a writer.

What does a fantasy editor do?

I’m going to take this question in the most literal sense. We’ll get to the actual types of editing in a bit.

As a fantasy editor, I spend most of my time reading or writing. I’m reading your work, other books, training courses, craft books. Always reading. And I write comments, reports, emails, blogs, whatever the day calls for. There’s very little to my week that falls outside of these categories!

My goal is for reports and comments to be constructive and supportive. For one, a snippy comment to judge a typo isn’t additive or friendly! And with developmental editing, analysing and critiquing your manuscript most often leads to me suggesting substantial revisions. We all know that feeling mopey and low on confidence is not the best headspace to approach writing! Developmental reports should be as empowering as they are critical.

What I don’t do is rewrite your manuscript. Even the most obvious of typos will be marked with track changes ready for you to accept or reject. My absolute favourite author interaction is when I made a developmental suggestion and they respond saying, “Yes, I see exactly what you mean. I’m going to take it in the opposite direction!”

What are the differences between copyediting, line editing, and developmental editing?

This is the most difficult part of hiring an editor. There are so many terms, they don’t seem to be used uniformly and often it is tricky to know what you need. If you’ve found this blog, you already know what proofreading is because H will have told you all about it! But we’ll go in that reverse order from there.

Copyediting (Copy editing? Copy-editing? I’ll answer that in a second!) is the stage of editing that concerns itself with consistency, accuracy and correctness. We all know about typos. We all know that a copyeditor is going to help us work out how many of those commas are only there for emotional support. These are the correctness. When I copyedit, I’m also ensuring a consistent style has been applied throughout – which answers our question. Pick one and stick to it! I’m also ensuring details are accurate. Accurate what? Accurate timelines, accurate representation, accurate real-world facts, accurate imagined facts (your mage had wings three pages ago…), and on and on…

Line editing is often described as making your sentence craft sharper or clearer. But I think that is reductive. It concerns itself with the flow and rhythm of your writing. The goal is to convey exactly the thoughts and emotions you are intending in each line. So actually, sometimes line editing will help you make a sentence a bit fuzzier to help your reader experience the characters sense of confusion or disembodiment alongside them. It’s all about style and voice, which is going to look very different from author to author.

Developmental editing is my favourite! This is the big picture. This is: Does the plot work, is it using conflict effectively, are the themes being applied and explored to the best of the narrative’s ability, is there the right balance of scene and exposition? Developmental editing is where I get to hold your whole book in my head and tease it apart. It assesses whether the book might meet the readers expectations in its genre and whether any genre subverting has been executed in a satisfying manner.

What are your favourite fantasy sub-genres to work on?

I’m terrible at favourites! Everytime I think I’ve chosen one, something new and exciting bounds over. I have a childish love for anything that features dragons. But what I love about fantasy is how boundless it is. One month, I could be living in someone’s floating pastel archipelago populated with fae and dedicating my energy to teasing out the mystery of the lost trinket that powers the waterfalls. The next month I might be ambling through some grungy London streets alongside a covert operation of magic wielding spies deadset on bringing down the government. I can’t limit fantasy by picking a favourite!

Aimée Hill
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