Line edit, or line drive edit?

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I love baseball, a sport with as much nuance as publishing. Ten years after I became a fan of baseball (so long ago that there was no designated hitter yet) I started work in publishing — from the editorial side up. I learned to appreciate an editor’s touch when I had a good one. I call it having someone to read behind me. We can all use that, so we make readers’ time count for a lot of fun and insight.

It’s not easy at first, though, to explain the differences between kinds of edits. Ask an editor to recite the distinctions of line edits and copyediting, and you’ll see how they conceive their work. I believe in line editing, and I’m working through a great line edit of my novel right now. It’s good hard work, like digging in at the plate when you have two strikes on you already. Just like the batters at yesterday’s Rangers-Tigers game, you make contact with pitch after pitch of comments and changes. You get rewarded with a hit once you consider every change.

However, you might not want all that time facing pitches. You have other things to do beside take swings at improving your book. Kids, day job, another book draft to write. Priorities are different for all of us. When you’re that kind of author, the edit you need might not be a line edit. You might need a line-drive.

In baseball, the line drive is the shortest path between barrel of the bat and the spot on the field where the ball lands. You can line-out in baseball, too, like Adolis Garcia did in a game at the new Texas ballpark. (With a roof and AC now, thank God, because it was 101 outside in the third inning.) The two-out ball hit by Adolis screamed straight into the second baseman’s glove with the bases loaded. Ballgame over.

When you ask for a line-drive edit, you ask your editor to drive to the finish. Problems with character motives or consistency melt away with the work an editor does in a line-drive. The editor’s got to be cautious about taking on line-drive edit, or paid better than average. The line-drive edit is a collaboration where the rewriting as needed happens without author intervention.

I’ve delivered line-drive edits. They usually come after essential development work with an author. By that time, I already know character backstories. A motivation on page 12 doesn’t conflict with another on page 47. Early motivations are the most crucial, because all that follows them flows away from that early backstory. Fun books have a ripple effect, where we make readers say, “Of course!” Even while something funny, tender, and new appears on the page.

Talk to your editor about a line-drive if you want your books to be a project with a faster path to becoming completed. You can save money with a line edit compared to a line-drive. Authors will still get to veto changes from a line-drive. I don’t know what the baseball equivalent of that veto is — Adolis didn’t get the baseball back onto his bat after he hit it.

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