First, let me welcome you to the first in my new series of posts: What Does an Editor Do? This will be a number of posts that showcase and highlight the various editorial services I have on offer, looking at what stage in your writing process you might encounter them and how to best prepare for them, and then make the most of them.
The first edit I shall be introducing you to is the Developmental Edit. This is the biggest sibling of all the edits – the useful older sibling who has the car when you need to move house or the muscles to help move that wardrobe.
Basically, it does all the heavy lifting.
When you have completed your manuscript and revised it a few times, you’ll come to a point when you just can’t look at it anymore but you know it’s not the best it can be just yet. Handy tip: Beta readers and having friends take a look is always a useful first step when you’ve completed your manuscript as they can provide some first reactions to your manuscript, unbiased (or biased depending on the friend). However, what these first reads won’t be able to provide is a detailed and forensic analysis of your manuscript. This is when a Developmental Edit comes in – when you need an external and professional helping hand. Taking place at the very beginning of the editorial process, an editor will use their years of experience in the field, their speciality in the genre as well as their keen eye for detail to help shape your manuscript, strengthen its skeleton and help you tone the body of the text.
So what does a Developmental Edit do?
A Developmental Edit – often also called a structural edit – means taking a look at the bigger picture of the manuscript and interrogating it. The edit will look at areas such as plot, structure, characters, pace and flow. But mainly it asks a lot of questions. Why does the character come to a particular decision? What motivates them to do so? Does the narrative make sense? Are there any points where the tension drops? How can we build the tension here and keep the reader engaged? Is the tone appropriate? Whose point of view is it? Do all the plot lines tie up? Does the argument hold up? Ultimately it asks, is this the best possible way to tell your story?
What a Developmental Edit is not:
What it is not is a rewriting of your manuscript. An editor will not re-write your words, it is very much your manuscript, but an editor is there to help you shape it alongside you, providing suggestions. As the author you choose whether to implement any changes made or not. For example, if there are some plot holes in your manuscript, an editor might suggest ways for you to address them but, more often, they will ask you questions to help you come up with the best solution for the manuscript yourself.
What will I come out with after the edit?
Each editor is different, but I will take your completed manuscript and I will read through it, before reading through again making notes and comments using MS Words Track Changes tool. I will highlight areas that have caused me to pause for whatever reason, ask questions to push your writing further, or make suggestions. A Developmental Edit does not look at grammar, spelling, punctuation etc, but the ideas of the manuscript. Alongside the annotated manuscript, I will also create a report that discusses wider themes of where your strengths and weaknesses lie, such as character, pace, major plot points, narrative style, point of view etc.
So what do I do with it?
That is very much up to you, but as all changes are made in MS Track Changes or comments, it is up to you as the author to decide whether to implement the amends or not. The report will give you suggestions of areas to focus on the marked-up manuscript indicates locations where you have either done something really well or might be worth taking a second look. But remember, each suggestion is made as a means to improve your manuscript, but working with an editor is a collaborative process so the decision lies with you as the author. Basically, a Developmental Edit serves as a guide to tighten the bones of your manuscript and help you on your way as a writer.
Top tip: Find an editor who is matched to your genre of writing.
Are you a budding YA author, who has the perfect tale to win over teenage hearts? Then make sure you have an experienced editor who knows their YA stuff. Have a hero and heroine who will have readers swooning from the opening pages, the someone who specialises in Romance is your best shout. And so on. Each genre has its own nuances and tropes, and having an editor experienced in that particular type of writing is a huge advantage as they will have the specialised knowledge to really develop your work. Just think, you wouldn’t go to an ENT doctor if you’d banged your toe?
I personally specialise in crime, suspense and thriller, having worked on these titles but also being a personally huge fan of the genre. So if you have a tale of gruesome murder, domestic suspense or an action-packed thriller, I can’t wait to hear from you.
How much does it cost? How long does it take? Do you have availability?
Each one of my quotations is bespoke, as I tailor each package to each author’s needs. So if you’re interested, do get in touch either via the contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation quotation. I’d love to hear more about your project and discuss how we can work together.