Developmental editing (also known as content editing) is the very highest level of editing. Developmental editing helps you develop every aspect of a book – areas like structure, characterisation, plot and pace.
Depending on the client’s preference, developmental editing is either hands-on, where the editor dives in and develops the book, or suggestions-based, where the editor guides the author to develop the book.
Whichever style of developmental editing I carry out, I leave no stone unturned and give you the full benefit of my experience and expertise. When an editor looks so intensively at your writing, it’s a recipe for a book you’ll be proud of.
The developmental editing service is for authors who want a publisher-level edit – who want to be challenged in the way that an in-house publishing editor challenges. It’s ideal for authors who are keen to develop their writing skills and publish the best possible book.
When you work with a developmental editor, you’re working with a very experienced, knowledgeable and talented publishing professional. There are plenty of proofreaders and copy editors for hire, but far fewer developmental editors – it’s a specialist service that requires years of learning. So when you commission developmental editing, you work side by side with someone who really knows how to write a great book. For authors, that proves to be reassuring, educative and, best of all, inspiring.
Of course, developmental editing is not for the faint of heart: this is a very detailed and invasive service that results in many changes to the book. The end result, though, is well worth the journey.
Developmental editing kicks off the editorial process:
In a developmental edit, I go through a book sentence by sentence, looking to develop all aspects of the work, like plot, characterisation, structure and pace. I don’t copy-edit or proofread, but I do look at tone and writing style.
How exactly I edit is the author’s choice. Proofreading and copy-editing are services with clear scopes, but developmental editing is a little different. Some publishing houses define developmental editing as an editor guiding an author through developing the book. Others define developmental editing as the editor diving in and rigorously reworking – and in places rewriting – the book. I think developmental editing should be whatever best suits the client, and so my service is bespoke, tailored to each client’s individual needs.
Depending on the client’s requirements, my developmental editing is based on either:
With the suggestions-only service, you effectively get a very detailed book critique that you use as a basis to rework your own manuscript.
With the hands-on option, the work can creep into the realm of ghostwriting, and that’s fine by me. Over the years I’ve written a lot of content for other authors’ books (and even entire books). Some of my clients commission developmental editing and say, ‘Charlie, do whatever you want to the book; I trust your judgement.’ They know that by giving me creative freedom they get the full benefit of my skill as a writer and my experience as a publishing professional.
Whatever style of developmental editing you prefer, the result will be a book that does not just live up to your initial vision, but surpasses it. The clients for whom I provide developmental editing are often those I see get signed by agents and publishers (who, incidentally, don’t need to know that I exist; I’m a ghostly member of Team Author).
I use Microsoft Word’s Track Changes tool when I perform developmental editing to mark up my suggested amendments. The marked-up file for hands-on developmental editing looks like this:
Suggestions-based developmental editing looks like this:
With Track Changes, you keep complete control of your book. You can clearly see my mark-up, and then choose for yourself which changes to accept or reject.
Developmental editing is top-level editorial work, and it’s not for every author. Some authors find the number of developmental suggestions/changes somewhat overwhelming. In this case, you have two choices: