Publishing Behind the Scenes: Line Edits

Happy December!

My latest newsletter is out today, and I’m continuing the series I started last month going behind the scenes of publishing with book edits. Moving on from developmental edits, this month I’m talking line edits!

While developmental edits look at the big picture plot, character, and overall changes that need to be made, line edits are comments the editor makes within the document addressing chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word-specific issues. I thought I knew what to expect. After all, my critique partners have been giving me in-line comments for years. But I confess when I first received my manuscript full of comments like “cut?” and “necessary?” I was a bit taken aback. I didn’t want to cut anything; of course all of those lines were necessary.

Except… they really weren’t.

Like, did it really need to say “Why?” twice for emphasis? Or did Jenny really need to smile tightly and inject a light note into her voice? Or was that just overkill, as my editor was so accurately pointing out?

That’s the thing about writing a book. You’re so close to it that you don’t notice when you’re repeating the same thought multiple ways. Or over-explaining things to readers. Did I accept every one of those suggested cuts? No. There were a few I felt strongly enough about to make an argument for keeping. But, honestly, my editor was right about 95 percent of them. By the time we got to line edits for My Second Impression of You, I just nodded along when I saw those suggestions, although there weren’t nearly as many. Hmm. I guess I streamlined my writing a bit!

But line editing it also where my editor notes other text-specific things like:

  • Too many instances of the same word close together.
  • How the voice sounds, of my main character and others. Is it too formal? Too old or young? Does the word choice seem off?
  • How the people are moving around
  • Phrasing suggestions
  • If my metaphors are too outlandish. One line cut from the first chapter of Your Life Has Been Delayed: “Possibly my lips are like a lighthouse, except instead of ships, they’re warning boys that my lips are dangerously boring.”
  • If chapter breaks should be adjusted
  • Any inconsistencies, like saying one thing and doing another
  • When scenes drag on too long (I may give readers a longer version of a scene from My Second Impression of You as a bonus later!)

Speaking of scenes, sometimes they need extra work beyond tightening during line edits. This format is great for that, because we can reply to each other within the Word document to make sure we’re both on the exact same, er, page about what’s happening. It’s like we’re having a conversation within the manuscript. For some chapters, those chats take up the whole side of the page 😊.

For Your Life Has Been Delayed, I still made some significant changes to the climax during line edits. For My Second Impression of You, I added two new chapters, deleted a scene, and rewrote another based on those discussions. The book is still being shaped into its final, shiny product during line edits.

And the same is true of copyedits, which is what I’ll cover next month. Word nerd that I am, I love those too!

Do you have any questions about line edits? Feel free to ask in the comments!

I’d love for you to subscribe to my newsletter! But in case you just want to keep following me here on the blog, I did share the description for My Second Impression of You, and you can now find it on the book’s page on my website as well.

Two other quick things:

  • I’ll be participating in World Read Aloud Day on Feb. 2, 2022. If you’re a teacher or librarian and would like me to visit your classroom virtually, please get in touch via my contact page.
  • If you would like signed copies of YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED, they are available for order at Main Street Books or The Novel Neighbor.

Thanks so much, and happy holidays!!

Responses to “Publishing Behind the Scenes: Line Edits”

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    So interesting to read about the process of doing line edits and what you’re learning from it. Just got your newsletter today and am thinking of trying your recipe.

    • Michelle I. Mason

      I find that there is always something new to learn! And I hope you enjoy the recipe! Even though I have it and could make them year-round, there’s something about waiting for my mom to make them every year :).


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)