Understand the 3 Levels of Editing and How Evaluate Your Own Writing

Is it good enough?

That’s the big impossible conundrum we all come up against when we sit down in front of a draft. Answering it about a piece of writing is just as impossible as answering it about a human being. It simply is what it is, and that’s good! The fact that the story exists (just like the fact that the human exists) is great.


The more useful question is, “Will it achieve my goal?”

That’s where editing comes in. For me, this is the real journey of writing. It’s where you learn the structures that successful communicators and make all the artistic choices that define your voice.

The process of editing is where you take a close look at the writers who inspire and fascinate you, and you start to diagram even their sentences in order to understand how they do what they do.

I find the process of editing just as adventurous as the first draft, and if you would if you would like to become a client and get some help on that journey, there are 2 spots open in The Writer’s Lab, with a special 1:1 bonus. Details on that are here.

Once you get to the end of your first draft there are three levels of editing, developmental editing, copy editing and proofreading. And a lot of this can be done on your own. Furthermore, it can save you thousands of dollars to dive in yourself with a little guidance.

When I work with people, I coach them through the developmental and copy edit, so they go straight to the proofread.

To get a better idea of where you’re at with your manuscript, let’s take a look at the three different levels.

Developmental Edit

The editor may move around structure, sections and chapters to look at the underlying literary elements. Comments and changes go deep, take time, and might involve several drafts. They're actually the same issues we take on in author coaching, which allows you to learn while you're still writing the manuscript.

Copy Edit

This happens when you're secure about the structure and you want to refine your voice. Editors do extensive paragraph and line edits, helping not only with the grammar, but also style. This is the art of being more persuasive, more literary, or simply more fluid with your words. Finding your voice is a sensitive issue, so be sure that clear expectations are established between yourself and your editor.


Honestly, as my clients grow in confidence, I like to send them straight to the proofread. This covers all the details of the grammar. This is where the distinctions are made between different kinds of English, depending on the country. I always recommend a proofread, because there are so many intricacies to have in place.

The more you grow as a writer, the more your own craft grows at every level. That initial question, “Is it good enough?” doesn’t have a simple answer. As long as you keep learning with every book you write, I believe that any goal is attainable.