This post was written for the Peerwith blog in the context of the company launching its new book editing service and was published there first. Please note that I currently do not offer structural editing services as I am focusing on other things right now. If you are looking for a structural editor, you can take a look at the CIEP directory.
A client of mine wrote a book proposal based on her dissertation, sent it to a publisher, and was invited to submit the manuscript for a round of peer review. She contacted me after she had gotten the book back with comments and asked me to help her restructure it based on the feedback the peer reviewers had provided.
I took the manuscript and comments, read it thoroughly while taking notes, and designed three options for a new outline and structure for the book, also noting which parts I thought could be deleted. All three options were based on a different type of structure with a different story/argument buildup. After my client picked her preferred option, I got to work restructuring the book, moving parts around, deleting other parts, and creating six new chapters. She then took it from me, edited it, and sent it back to me for a last pass. The book has now been published!
This kind of editing is what I call structural editing. Structural editing is the most rewarding but also most taxing form of editing. When writers come to me because they need help developing their argument, untangle their main points, restructure their book or article, or anything else that involves the content of their work, I always know that I’m in for a lot of work. In order to do a structural edit well, I have to know what the author is trying to argue. I have to immerse myself in their writing and their thought process.