Editing Services

If you need an experienced, sharp-eyed editor to help you lift your manuscript to the next level, you’ve come to the right place. I provide both developmental and line/copy editing for novels and short fiction, at reasonable rates. My special areas of interest include fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries. Editing of nonfiction on topics in music and music technology is also available by special arrangement. I’m not interested in romance, erotica, horror, or memoir.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts, let’s hear from a few satisfied clients:

“Jim is the kind of editor writers most urgently need, irrespective of context. Apart from being intimate with his writing for years before I even began, I got the chance to work with him as he edited my six-hundred page tome on music production, Real World Digital Audio (which did well enough as to be translated into popular Polish- and Russian-language editions). That was a titanic challenge both of project management and interpersonal communication, and Jim manages to be tough, clear, and capable of focusing on each and every word while still moving the larger effort ever forward. He’s the sort of editor I’ve since aspired to be.” –Peter Kirn

To be clear, Peter’s book was nonfiction, but it was a large project, and any project I work on gets processed by the same intra-cranial wetware.

A year or two ago I read an as-yet-unpublished novel by an old friend, Lisa Swallow. Here’s her perspective:

“Jim has an innate sense of how all the parts of the story come together to create a satisfying read. He was able to identify not just where the writing jarred him out of the story, but why. Sometimes it was a description that was a bit off, sometimes a transition (or lack thereof) or a bit of dialogue that didn’t fit the character. Jim uncovered all these.  He also identified the biggest flaw in my novel, which was that I, as a writer, was just too nice to my protagonist. I hadn’t put him in quite enough difficult situations to bring out the richness of his character. I hadn’t shown enough of who he was.

“Thanks to Jim and his keen sense of story, I’m confident that the next time an agent asks for the complete manuscript, they will want to represent it. I highly recommend bringing him into your process.”

Another writer with whom I’ve worked, Barbara Flores, had this to say:

“I’m very fortunate to have found Jim Aikin to edit my novel. In reading my manuscript he caught many typos and grammar edits that two other editors had missed. However, calling Jim a copy-editor is a disservice to his skill level and literary talent. He also provided excellent content and structural editing. He included a thorough multi-page plot analysis that illuminated plot holes and slow points in my story and also suggested specific practical solutions. I believe Jim wears wizard glasses that enabled him to precisely pinpoint trouble spots in my manuscript that were invisible to me. Also, his turnover time was remarkably fast. (I thought he must have several clones at home.) He was always available to communicate via email, and he went the extra mile to give me helpful references online. His edits and direction encouraged me to write a cleaner, more riveting and focused story that adheres to the standards of my genre. Jim is an outstanding editor.”

Developmental Editing. In this process, I look primarily at the big picture. Does your plot move well? Are your characters believable and well rounded? Will readers understand the characters’ motivations? Is the story premise fresh? Are there logical inconsistencies in the plot? Is the tone of the prose appropriate to the story? How have you handled the viewpoint and flashbacks? With fantasy and science fiction, how have you handled the world-building? I will sometimes offer suggestions for changes that I feel would make the story stronger.

Along the way, I keep an eye on lower-level issues such as word usage and punctuation. I will alert you to any patterns that I notice, such as missing quotation marks or misused words, but in developmental editing I won’t mark every low-level problem that snags my eye. My assumption in developmental editing is that you will want to do some rewriting, and that you’ll want a copy-editor to go through the manuscript with an eye to detail after you add or change some of the material. It would be redundant effort for me to copy-edit while doing a developmental edit.

Line/Copy Editing. My assumption when hired to do this type of edit is that your story unfolds exactly as you want it to. I may notice larger developmental issues, and may comment on them briefly, but my focus will be on your prose.

A word of warning is in order here, however. If you’re an unpublished first-time author and your story has not been critiqued and rewritten, you’re probably not ready for a copy-edit. If you only want a copy-edit but on reading your sample chapters I find that the larger elements of the story are not convincing, I will suggest that you find another editor. Getting the story right is the most important thing.

Once I start copy/ line editing, I will ask myself questions like these: Is your usage of commas, hyphens, and other punctuation up to a professional standard? Are the grammar and word usage correct? How about capitalization? Do the pronouns have antecedents? Are any special terms (such as alien words in science fiction) spelled consistently throughout?

There are certainly some variations in what is considered correct grammar, and I try not to be pedantic. Especially in dialog, nonstandard grammar and spelling may be both desirable and effective. Occasionally I also see sentences that, while technically flawless, are awkward or stilted. I will sometimes suggest optional changes that you may want to consider.

My Rates. I charge $0.015 (one and a half cents) per word for fiction. This works out to $1,200 for an 80,000-word novel. For short fiction, a $100 minimum will apply. Clients pay half of the fee up front, via PayPal. Final payment of the remainder of the fee must be received before I deliver the edited manuscript.

Not sure you’re ready to send me money? Contact me (via midiguru23 at gmail dot com) and send me an initial novel segment of 3,000 to 4,000 words. I’ll go through it for free, so you can evaluate my editing. (There’s no easy way to do this with short stories; sorry.)

My Qualifications. My primary qualifications in fiction are as a writer rather than as an editor. In the late 1980s my agent sold novels I had written to Del Rey and Ace. (Walk the Moons Road is long out of print, but I recently released a new edition of The Wall at the Edge of the World.) I’ve had a few stories published over the years in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, and other magazines. I’m currently active in self-published fantasy; my four-volume epic (The Leafstone Shield, The Rainbow Tree, The Heartsong Fountain, and The Firepearl Chalice) is available on Amazon.

As an editor, I have worked primarily in nonfiction. Until Backbeat Books was acquired by Hal Leonard Publishing, I was the series editor of Backbeat’s music technology books, the series called Power Tools. I edited Real World Digital Audio for Peachpit Press and the third edition of Paul Gilreath’s The Guide to MIDI Orchestration. (I’m incorrectly shown on Amazon as a co-author of the latter title.) Prior to my work on these books, I was on the editorial staff of Keyboard magazine for more than 25 years. At Keyboard I handled all phases of editing, from planning special issues through technical and line editing to copy-editing, proofreading, and making last-minute corrections in a page layout program.

My expertise in fiction is by no means limited to writing. For several years I was part of an active critique group that focused on science fiction and fantasy. Reading one another’s manuscripts with a critical eye and offering supportive commentary was what we did. I also have a groaning shelf of how-to-write books by others, which I have read and absorbed over the years — everything from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction to Scott Meredith’s Writing to Sell.

If you have a story to tell, I can help you tell it well.

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