I reckon…after doin’ some thinkin’…that there’s three types of editing, and you need all of these to edit your work.
1. The first is wide-ranging. This is plot, character, sense. This is “why on earth would they walk through that door when they’ve just been told there’s a monster behind it?” This is “what planet are you on?” This is “you need more blood!” This is the big, irritating details of the story that will jar the reader out of it, and leave them scratching their heads.
2. The second type is detail. This is “you use that word six times in three sentences, please change it.” This is “show, not tell.” This is “swap that sentence with this sentence.” This is the small little English language things that make a story flow.
3. And finally, proofing. This is the commas, the full stops, the “please stop using the American spelling…” and the “GODDAMNIT STOP CAPITALISING YOUR NOUNS!” This is the tiny little things that bug some people, and some people don’t even notice.
The first one is my kinda proofreading. It’s why I’m usually happy to read over people’s writing – I can usually spot the big things, the character issues, the “hang on a sec…” moments. However, I’m awful at 2. I don’t have the training in English language, I don’t have the eye. I write by instinct, not by understanding how the language works…and as such, I’m not great at recognising what I’m actually doing with the words. And proofing…I’m ok. I don’t have the eye for detail that someone who’s a brilliant proofreader has, but I can focus for long enough to pick up 99% of the errors. On the minus side, I can’t proof my own work – I know what it should say! #fail
You need all of these types of editing to make your work good. I can do 1 myself, although it does help to have someone else read it, and I definitely need someone else to do 2 and 3. So, my tip for the day: if you come across a good editor who can do any of these, keep them! Hint – they often respond well to cake.