Do you ever get hired for a copy/content edit for a story so bad that it isn’t worth salvaging? What do you do then?
Hey Dave, great to hear from you again!
We do get orders for manuscripts that are extremely rough, as is natural for first drafts. Sometimes, a manuscript is so rough that, in our opinion, it would be less work for the author to start a new story than to salvage the current one. What we do then depends on the type of editing the client has requested.
If it’s a copy edit, our senior copy editor Ariel will recommend the client get content editing instead. Copy editing is more expensive than content editing, and the rougher the manuscript is, the more expensive it gets. Rough manuscripts are just a lot more work to copy edit. Copy editing is a good investment when the manuscript is otherwise ready for publishing. Otherwise, we don’t want anyone to waste their money.
Content editing is a little more complex. Technically there is no story so rough that it can’t be salvaged. Though in some cases, the most effective means of fixing a very rough story is to throw away the current draft and rewrite from top to bottom. It’s the author’s choice whether a story is worth that much work, not ours. Some stories are just that important.
In such situations, we go through the content-editing process as normal, but our final recommendations tend to be much broader. Instead of recommending how the plot can be improved, for example, we’ll offer recommendations on how to rewrite it so that it matches up with what the author is trying to do. We’re also up front about the amount of effort that’s likely required, so the author can make an informed choice.
And even if the manuscript is never published, hearing feedback and either making revisions or applying those lessons to the next story is a really important part of the learning process. Many writers start on the path to greatness by toiling over a doomed story they love. They may eventually decide it’s too much work to salvage it, but with the lessons they learned along the way, they can now write new stories that then get published. Otherwise, most authors don’t have any way of knowing what they’re doing wrong. They will fall into the same traps for years on end.
Hope that answers your question!