These are great questions. For our purposes, I like to define book editing as making systematic changes to a manuscript, which can be as simple as proofreading for grammar and punctuation, to as involved as overhauling an entire plot. The latter also gives you a hint at how I use the term “revision.” Consider the below:
Well, the writing is done in revision. You can see the following section for more if you’re not convinced. If you are taking it easy on yourself in self-editing, if you aren’t looking at your manuscript on the whole, it’s possible you are not revising to your full potential.
Most manuscripts are not complete after a first draft. In fact, you probably have not fully grasped what your story really is yet. So revising lightly will shortchange you in the long run.
Here’s the reason: You are always working, as a writer, whether you’re at your word processor or not. Your creative brain keeps ticking. You know this because you’re often coming up with brilliant ideas in the shower for waking up in the middle of the night with brainstorms. You can’t rush that work.
Most writers who’ve just finished a manuscript are too close to it. They are reluctant to delete large sections or move big things around. They’re reluctant to admit that they have a muddy middle and that they need to start over.
But big changes are often at the heart of revision. And the sooner you can make some big changes in your manuscript, the better. You don’t want to fiddle with commas for three years only to realize, on draft twenty-seven, that your two main characters need to be combined into one. Ouch.
The importance of book editing is clear when you’ve had some time away from the project. (The trick of putting your manuscript away for three months also works wonders when you are on draft twenty-seven and can’t bear to look at the thing one more time. I always recommend that writers do this before they go on submission.)