Concept editing, What is it?
My new novel, Lockets and Lanterns, is in its final stages of production. One of those processes was concept editing.
What is that? you ask.
In a nutshell, it is looking at your manuscript as a whole.
Is your title inviting? Does it tell the reader what the story is about?
If your story is a romance, you can show that on a cover, but you also need to make sure your cover does not display a mystery or some other genre which is not your target audience. My book, Lockets and Lanterns, tells you this is a historical, and the bride and groom on the cover shows romance.
This is what a concept editor looks at as well as the overall story line. Is there enough conflict to enthrall readers? In my novel, there is a secret the groom keeps from his bride. This hidden promise will have tragic consequences. The story line must keep people interested in finding out the secret and have believable characters in which readers can empathize with during their times of heartaches and joys.
A concept editor also is your deleter-in-chief. You will see paragraphs and what you considered “sharp” dialogue gone. After staring at your work in horror, you realize the concept editor was on the right track. If layers of dialogue or descriptions muddle your story, what good is it? Once you understand that, you look at the strikeouts in new ways. The editor is helping you keep the readers’ interest. How often have you weeded through a story or read it halfway then shoved it to the side because of lack of interest? A lot more than we would like to admit.
Another task of the concept editor is to analyze sentence structures. Is the sentence clear or does it need to be clarified through rewording or using dialogue tags, such as she said, in certain circumstances to determine the speaker? Though, remember to limit tags as much as possible. I often use actions to let the reader know who is talking.
Besides these, this editor will continue to examine for improper word usage like the word, “past.” This is a mistake I see quite often in books. “Past” is for an occurrence which happened in the past. “She thought of her past mistakes and shook her head.” However, “passed” is used when you move around an object or a person/s. “Nora passed her sister before stepping outside.” A concept editor should catch this as well as to look for misspelled words and when certain words, such as Pa, need capitalization or when awhile is one word or two. If it is at the end of a prepositional phrase, the usage is a while. But if you mean it took awhile for him to answer, it is one word.
I found the process unnerving at times, especially when your mistakes stare up at you and whole paragraphs are deleted, but necessary because that person is your gatekeeper in making your story compelling, well written and the best possible. But remember they also are human beings and can miss items which will glare at you later. Have a blessed New Year and watch for the spring release of Lockets and Lanterns.