When it comes to editing, there are different levels depending on the state the manuscript is in. 

A developmental edit is the highest level of editing for a piece of writing. It is done for fiction or nonfiction as an intense editing process that focuses on the structure of a piece of writing, and what’s holding that structure together. 

Developmental editing addresses things like:

  • Plot holes
  • Confusing dialogue
  • Poor character development
  • Unclear story arcs
  • Questionable character motivations
  • Point of view issues
  • Muddled thematic choices
  • Messy essay or chapter structure
  • Contradictions in story plot or essay arguments

It is a foundational edit that focuses on big picture ideas first. You may think you want to nitpick all the little details of your story or sentences, but a developmental edit will help you see that until or unless the overall idea of the piece is solidly put together, there’s no point in nitpicking on the details just yet. Leave that for a copyedit. 

A developmental edit can be done on any length of work whether it’s a short story, personal essay, memoir, novella or novel. 

If you’ve written a novel, you may want to have feedback from beta readers first, and then do a developmental edit. Or, if it’s very early on in the process, you can choose to do a developmental edit right away to gain clarity with the book before you send it out to beta readers.

When I do a developmental edit, the manuscript I’m working on often becomes peppered with comments everywhere, and I may even rearrange the order of paragraphs if the structure isn’t making sense. Sometimes, I may suggest deleting or rewriting certain sections. 

At the end, I send back the marked up document along with a letter summarizing the suggestions I’ve made.

It is often a long process on the editor’s part due to the in-depth, back-and-forth nature, but once completed, it can be highly rewarding for the client and gives them a clear step of where to head next with their work. 

Overall, a developmental edit is just as it sounds – it’s about developing the piece into what you want it to be. The right developmental editor will be compatible with you, respect your intentions for the piece, and understand the genre you’re writing in. 

You don’t have to agree with every single thing your editor suggests, but do keep an open mind since what they are suggesting is often to your benefit. However, if you find that you’re disagreeing a lot with your editor or clashing over creative ideas, they may not be the right editor for you. 

It’s important to book a consultation with them first to discuss the piece you want to edit, your goals with it, your writing style, and to see if you get along! They should also request to see a sample of the piece first to get acquainted with it, and to see if the content or genre is in their wheelhouse.

Questions? Send me an email: emma@theholisticwritingstudio.ca

Happy writing!

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