Tweet Chat 14th November 2020 Editing with guest Ellie Holmes

Participants: Julie Chang, Maria Johnson, Anita Belli, Gerald Hornsby, Deborah Klée

This week I have copied over some of the tweets from our tweet chat. I have not attributed them to the writer, and for that I apologise. It is just a matter of finding the easiest way to share the notes, and I do not want to misquote anyone.

We discussed our relationship with editing, whether it was a pain or a pleasure. 

Everyone recognised the importance of editing:

  • Structural edits to make the work shine
  • Copy edits to correct grammar, spelling, and to improve sentence structure and flow
  • Proofing the final draft. 

A couple of the participants favoured detailed plotting and planning before writing a first draft to minimise the structural editing of plot. Others viewed the first draft as getting the story down so that there was something to work on – to improve and refine. Several of us, including me, enjoyed the editing process. 

What should be included in the edit of a first draft MS?


‘For me the 1st edit is what I call the ‘content edit’. I make sure there are no huge plot holes, that there is smooth continuity etc. A lot of it ends up being actual rewriting at this stage & making everything a lot tighter.’ 

‘First run through should look for obvious glitches in the plot, characters not working in the way you intended and pace. Pace is so important and often overlooked.’

We discussed pace and agreed that this is key. Agents and publishers focus on pace when editing with an author. Also, character arcs, and character development. 

There are different edits required at different stages. Which do you do yourself, where do you seek help, and why?


‘I always use a lovely team of beta readers; structural edit; copy edit; proofread. Some in-house, some outsourced. Fresh eyes are essential.’

‘I do most of the initial editing myself, the content editing, the 2nd stage where I check the content edits. At that point I ask the hubs, more for asking if the story reads ok /all makes sense etc. submit to publishers. If they accept they proofread & I get it back all in red because you can never spot all of your own typos I check those, then they amend them, then I check the amendments. At some point my mum will also look through it as she is a fantastic proofreader!’

‘I generally just get a beta read when I’m confident my ms is ‘functional’ (i.e. no plot holes, no glitches, no typos). I also use @ProWritingAid to help in the 2-3 stages of proofreading. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is!’

‘If you cannot get another person to look then at least put the MS away for a while.’‘Having someone take a helicopter view of your novel can be so helpful gain a fresh perspective.’

‘Returning to earlier drafts is good because you already know your story The danger is that you forget what you have or haven’t said. And it can sometimes lack the sparkle of a first idea.’

A concern was raised about the cost of editing services when there was a chance that this money would not be recouped through sales. We discussed this and agreed that this was possible. However, the advantages are you:

  • Give your work the best possible chance of success
  • Learn a great deal through the guidance of a skilled structural editor to improve your craft. 

You may not earn back what you have invested in the first one or two books but over time, as you write more and become better known, you are more likely to earn back this investment.

Debbie Alper runs a how to self-edit course that is recommended by many writers. If you invest in this training then you could save money paying for structural edits. See Debbie’s blog post:


‘I think if money is tight, you can do edit & proofread swaps with other writers. It helps to know the other person, though, and trust them. You must be allowed to call out issues with a manuscript.’

‘I think the power of beta readers should never be underestimated and trainee editors will often work at a discount to increase their experience. More experienced editors will also offer deals if they have a gap in the schedule. Contacts are the key for these things.’

I asked for participants recommendations for editing services. Ellie Holmes was recommended by two participants, you will find her details at the end of these notes.


‘I really recommend Namecheap for a website domain and Easywp for hosting. Had to purchase my own website and design it from scratch in order to do email marketing/newsletter stuff and after research these were the best options. Brilliant value & amazing customer support.’

‘I can recommend Reedsy for finding editors and/or cover designers.’

What are the dangers of pressing ‘send’ too soon, whether that is to an agent, publisher or publication? How do you know your MS is ready?


‘Most people press the send button too soon, whether that’s submitting a novel to an agent or publisher or indie publishing. Back away from that send button, folks! Make sure your manuscript is the best it can be before taking that final step.’ Ellie

‘Personally, it is important to get the novel as ‘finished’ as you can – but more in terms of story cohesion than grammar. If the publishers/agents are gripped by the story, they will keep reading even if there are typos. Plus, no manuscript will ever be perfect, at some point you have to stop fiddling with it. It is helpful to give your eyes a rest from it for week or two, then go back to it and read it again and hopefully the break will mean you catch most of any lurking typos.’

‘Reading your manuscript aloud and in one sitting when you think it is ready is a great way to see if it flows well and the pace works.’

A good copy edit is essential. If a writer has not bothered to correct grammar and spelling then why should a reader invest time in reading that book? A new author can spoil their reputation by neglecting to ensure that their book is ready for publication.


‘Writing is both an art and a craft. Both are essential components. Publishing is a business and you really don’t want to be putting off potential readers!’

Ellie Holmes how did you become an editor?

Ellie explained that she was a reader for the Romantic Novelists Association and found great satisfaction in helping writers to achieve their potential. This led Ellie to train as an editor. Ellie explained the difference between the editing processes. 

‘Copy editing is all about the small details – grammar, spelling. Structural editing is the overall feel – the bigger picture and hope to assess that.

‘When a writer is grappling with a manuscript it can feel like trying to stuff an octopus in a 

sack. You get 7 arms in then 3 work their way loose and you have to start over. A structural editor can help take the stress out of the process and ensure you stay on track.

‘On my blog I wrote about the importance of having cheerleaders in our lives – someone who is in our corner and who has our back. A structural editor can be that person when a writer hits a roadblock with their work.…

If anyone wants to find out more about becoming an editor these are two great places to start The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading @The_CIEP The Publishing Training Centre @PTCBookHouse

I asked what the training involved.

‘A lot of modules of training and practical experience, with assessments on a regular basis and a final exam. It’s a big undertaking spanning several years if done correctly. Sadly a lot of people call themselves editors without undertaking any formal training

Just to say my tip sheets on how to make your manuscript the best it can be and what structural editing can do for your book will be available with the notes at the end of this session.’

You can download Ellie’s Manuscript tips and information about structural editing from The Novel Makers here:

Another interesting chat. Thank you to Ellie Holmes and all of this week’s particpants. 

Next week Angela Ackerman author of The Emotional Thesaurus will be our guest to discuss bringing emotion to the page. Don’t miss the chat as Angela is a writing coach, an international speaker, and bestselling author. This is a rare opportunity to ask your questions and share your learning.