Developmental Edit

What is a developmental edit?

developmentalA developmental edit of a manuscript largely ignores grammatical issues and concentrates on story-shaping. My husband and I gave our oldest daughter a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. When she opened the box, she nearly gave up before she even began. There may only have been 500 pieces in that puzzle, but there might as well have been a million. She didn’t even know where to start.

Over the next several days, I helped my daughter sort the pieces—frame pieces in one pile and then piles of similarly colored or textured pieces in others. Once we had everything separated, she began putting the puzzle together. It was painstaking work, not at all easy, but the process didn’t take long to finish, because she’d had someone to help her separate and sort through the pieces.

Developmental editing is similar. You may have an amazing story concept, but you’re unsure how it’s coming together, if parts of it make sense, if certain story threads should be included or not included, and if a scene needs an elusive something, but you’re unsure what that something is.

I will help with that. In a developmental edit, I will read closely for the following:

  • Story arc: Does your story have an amazing inciting incident? Does it ask a narrative question that will drive the story? What are the themes? Does the action peak at the right time? Does the denouement resolve all the narrative questions throughout? Is there a story frame?
  • Plot holes: Plot holes are pesky things that happen to the best of us. I will look for holes, both large (the appearance of a brand new character or theme without proper build-up) and small (a character exits through a non-existent—until that moment—door).
  • Character development: Does each character in your story have depth or are they two-dimensional? I will look for consistency in the character’s actions and dialogue, as well as character quirks that keep reappearing ad nauseum.
  • World-building: World-building is especially important in fantasy where the setting is vastly different from the world in which we live. However, world-building is necessary for any other genre as well, because your readers must imagine the world in which your characters dwell. Too much description can have the feel of an “info dump,” and too little can leave your reader lost. I will suggest ways of building your world without falling into the trap of too much narrative “telling.”
  • Narrative voice/Pacing: Sometimes an author has a brilliant story, but has yet to refine their style of narration. I will suggest areas where the pacing of the story can be modified, where “clunky” paragraphs can be restructured, where questions arise from awkwardly worded segments.
  • Genre selection/Marketing ideas: Where will your book appear on a shelf at the bookstore? I will help you assign a genre and audience for your book to the market niche with the most appeal. I can also share ideas that have worked for me personally, as well as ideas I know have worked for others. 

I will also submit a chapter-by-chapter critique that will explore the above analyses in more detail.

A developmental edit is a wonderful tool that always takes a story to the next level. I’m excited about tackling this 500 piece jigsaw together with you.

Cost: $9/1,000 Words