Stephanie Fysh, editor


Manuscript evaluation (novels)

Manuscript evaluation is a full, critical reading of a manuscript. The author receives an extensive letter outlining what’s working and what isn’t in the manuscript, suggesting ways of handling what isn’t working, advising what other steps should be taken next, and addressing the author’s particular concerns. Authors might, for example, want feedback on genre and audience, suggested formats (print, ebook, or app?), possible avenues for publication, and anything from title to a particular character’s appearance. If you've got a complete draft of a novel and are wondering what it needs next, this is where to start finding out. You can expect to pay a minimum flat rate for the first 100,000 words with a per-“page” (250 words) rate above that.

Structural/substantive editing (novels)

Manuscript evaluation is often followed by working closely with an editor on the structure of a manuscript, a service I provide only for long-form fiction. Structural editing (also called substantive or developmental editing) concerns the whole shape of a manuscript: beginnings and endings, setting and character arcs, choice of person and tense, point of view, plot, tone, and much, much more. The process typically begins with an extensive letter, continues back and forth between author and editor until the work has found its best form, and often also includes a degree of stylistic editing (for which see below).

Stylistic editing

Stylistic editing is often thought of as the smoothing of language. It concerns such matters as tone and language level, sentence and paragraph structure, transitions between elements, effective phrasing, conciseness, directness, and rhythm. In fiction, it may include distinguishing characters’ speech and the narrator’s voice. In nonfiction, it may include revising tables and figures for effective communication. Stylistic editing is most often done in conjunction with either substantive/structural editing or copy editing.

Copy editing

Copy editing is detail work that primarily addresses correctness, clarity, and consistency. Its focus is on spelling and capitalization, grammar, punctuation, word usage, consistency of mechanics, accuracy of basic mathematics, and internal consistency of fact. In fiction, it includes consistency in narrative and detail — think of this as the continuity edit — and a careful watch for historical anachronism. In nonfiction, it includes consistency in table and figure design and in art captions, a full check of any citation or reference system, and checking of heading levels and may, on request, include a degree of fact-checking. As your copy editor, I might also prepare your final, approved files for a typesetter or formatter.


Proofreading is the review of typeset or formatted material for accurate and appropriate layout and design and to catch what was missed in editing, insofar as budget and time permit. All other stages of editing should be completed before layout for most types of publication, as errors are easier — and usually cheaper — to fix then. Unless you've already had your manuscript laid out by a formatter, look upwards in this list: it might be a copy edit you’re after.

Back-of-the-book indexing

Indexes don’t write themselves, and good indexes aren’t written by machines. A professional indexer also gives you a fresh eye for errors and may see readers’ ways into your book that you, precisely because you are the author, do not see. I still take on indexing projects, but only occasionally, and only for material that doesn’t need an embedded, hyperlinked index. I will happily refer you to other professional indexers when I'm not available.

World bible compilation and maintenance

Series fiction provides a special challenge to both writers and editors in creating a world across multiple manuscript over many years that is not only compelling but also consistent — not only in proper names but in history, geography, magic systems, sociopolitical details, technology, language, biology, and more. While some writers maintain a separate document for this purpose right from the start of a project and update it regularly, others fall into fiction-writing before learning of the value of a world bible. I can take some of the pain and boredom of catching up from you, by taking what you've already presented to your readers and compiling a working world bible. This document can then be built up over the course of a series, shared with editors and publishers as needed, and even expanded beyond what is actually published (with clear indications of where that line is). 

Training and facilitation

With a decade-long background in teaching editing in Canada's leading publishing training school, I provide customized training in copy editing and proofreading to interested groups. I have also, in the past, provided introductions to social media use to publishing and artists’ groups, and I am available to facilitate or speak to reading groups looking for an editor’s perspective.

Interested in learning more about the different editorial tasks? Start at the Editors’ Association of Canada.