Ever wondered what a developmental editor does?
You’re not alone.
In my opinion, a developmental edit is the most vital edit you can do, and your story will thank you for it. It will make sure your story is the best it can be.
And so, after my explanation of why you might want to consider hiring a developmental writing coach, I’ll now tell you what developmental editing is, when you might need one, and if it’s worth hiring a developmental editor.
Although I’ve also editing nonfiction, this post is mostly based on developmental fiction editing.
What is developmental editing?
Developmental editing is a form of writing support that is focused on the structure of the book. Originally, a developmental editor would help the writer with their outline, structure, and may have coached the author chapter by chapter, as they’re writing.
Many of these things now fall under writing coaching, but a developmental editor may still look at the outline of a book to give advice on the overall structure.
But, most commonly, a developmental edit is done when the writer has completed their first (or second) draft and would like specific guidance on how to edit their manuscript.
The editor does this by examaning the overall structure and the structure within each scene.
There, the editor will find weaknesses in the plot, and will know how these points can be fixed.
But they don’t just look at the structure, they also:
- examine whether the stakes keep progressing (so the story has enough movement);
- if the character development is sufficient (e.g., is it believable? Does the character even change at all? Is there a connection to the character?);
- judge the worldbuilding (which is especially important in fantasy and science fiction works);
- keep track of the continuity of the story, to spot plot holes and inconsistencies in, for instance, character descriptions.
In short: they do a lot to make sure the bones of your story are as strong as possible.
Depending on the developmental editor, they might also comment on your voice, the activeness of your writing (e.g., if you have a lot of passages that are telling rather than showing) and other points in your writing that might need improvement.
When to get a developmental editor?
So, when is the time to go searching for a developmental editor?
It depends, of course, on what your writing process is.
Generally, if you write solid first drafts, you can hire a developmental editor after your first draft. However, if you’re a discovery writer, your first draft might not be the time to send it to an editor. Instead, first edit the manuscript yourself.
It’s actually always a good idea to first go over the manuscript yourself and change what you feel needs changing before you send your manuscript to a developmental editor. If it’s the best you can do at that time, then you will also get the most out of the developmental edit.
But sometimes, it can help to hire a developmental editor sooner.
You might have an outline that you’re not sure works. You can send that outline to a developmental editor, and they can gauge whether your structure seems solid or not, and points that might need reconsideration. That way, you know before you’re writing the story that you have strong bones to build upon. This might be a good option if you’re a dedicated plotter.
Or perhaps you’re halfway and feeling stuck. You might hire a developmental editor to read the story as you have it so far, get feedback on that, and bounce off ideas with them as to how the story can continue.
Or perhaps with some of their suggestions for the story, a problem you’ve been having is now solved, and you can continue writing.
Is it worth it?
As I’ve said in the beginning of this post, I think a developmental edit is absolutly crucial.
For my own work, a developmental edit has been a massive help, pointing out what parts needed to be strengthened and changed, with a clear direction as to how they needed to be changed.
In my work with clients, I’ve seen many manuscripts being improved because of a developmental edit. It makes such a difference.
Is it an investment?
Of course. It’s not cheap. And if you go looking for the cheapest editor, remember that you generally get what you pay for. It might not help all that much then.
Is it a guarantee that your book will sell?
I don’t think there are any guarantees in life, including whether your book will sell or not. But I do believe that a developmental edit will make your book better. And the better the book, the more likely people will love it, leave reviews, tell others, and the more people will buy your book.
Looking for a developmental editor?
Obviously, I’d love to work with you and help you on your writing journey.
But it’s always good to look around. See who’s a good fit for you.
I tend to have a more direct approach when it comes to editing.
I’m never rude (there’s no point in that), but I don’t sugercoat things either. I’m here to help you learn to become a better writer and write the best book possible.
This style might not fit with you.
So, when in doubt, always request a sample edit to give you an idea of how a person opperates. Ask other writers who they used, and what their experiences were. Look up these editors, see how they feel to you.
And again: request a sample.
Want to know more about what I can do for you?
Check out my editing services here, and email me with any questions you might have!