Editing is so much more than correcting grammar and punctuation. It has a much broader focus. Every editor has their definition of what editing is. During these next few blog posts, I’ll be giving more detailed descriptions of the types of editing I offer. I will explain what each type of editing is, who it is ideal for, and what my process is. Today, we will take a closer look at developmental editing.
What Is It?
Developmental editing is about strengthening a manuscript’s structure and content. The “bones” of the manuscript, such as plot, setting, flow, and tone, are all important in this editing process. Although I might suggest corrections for grammar and spelling, it is not my first priority during a developmental edit. This process is about giving your manuscript a solid foundation for presenting your ideas.
Who Is It for?
Developmental editing is heavy-handed, which makes it ideal for rough drafts or unfinished projects that are in trouble. It is also helpful for authors who are starting out and still learning their craft. It can even be good for a few chapters to help the author gauge what developmental stage their manuscript is at.
What Is the Process?
I have a checklist I follow with each edit. Before I edit anything, I always take the time to read it. I want to know what I’m getting into before I rearrange things. Afterward, I take care of housekeeping items such as spellcheck and removing extra spaces. I will usually customize my checklist to include any problems that caught my attention during the first reading.
The first things I focus on are titles and headings. They need to be engaging enough to catch your reader’s attention while informing the reader about what is coming in the text. The next focus is the introduction and conclusion. Both paragraphs are usually strong because authors spend the most time perfecting them. I make sure that the paragraphs are engaging for readers, plainly state (or restate) the point, and fit together cohesively.
Next, I look at the structure of the manuscript. I make sure that the ideas in the introduction are carried throughout the manuscript. They need to be expanded logically in the text. As I move through the manuscript, I look for plot holes, inconsistencies, poor descriptions, inaccuracies, and ill-timed pacing. I want the content to have value for both you and your reader. You should feel that your content is expressing your ideas clearly; and the reader should find your manuscript intriguing and easy to understand.
My next concern is logic and flow. These aspects overlap with structure because they are related. I look for good transitions between paragraphs and logical flow through the manuscript. The text isn’t the only focus in this part. It is also important that extra content, such as charts or images, tie into the surrounding text and add value to the manuscript.
I always take special care to look at dialogue. It needs to flow like a natural conversation and make sense to the reader. If the dialogue is forced, the reader won’t believe it and will be turned off from the story. Depending on your manuscript’s setting, the dialogue also needs to fit within the location and time. It is a critical part of building your manuscript’s world.
My next concern is the tone and voice. The tone will let your manuscript make the right impression on your readers. I make sure that the tone is appropriate and stays consistent. For voice, I ensure that your manuscript has more active voice than passive so that it will exude confidence and authority.
Finally, I will look at clarity and accuracy. I put these elements last because they are so important. These two are imperative for every type of writing, which makes it important for me to address any existing issues with them. Above all else, the reader needs to clearly understand the manuscript and trust that the information is accurate. With all my projects, I do one final read-through to make sure I haven’t introduced new errors into the manuscript while I was making significant changes.
What you get from an editing process depends on who the editor is and what type of editing they are doing. I view developmental editing as a process that helps authors create a well-structured manuscript out of their rough drafts. Developmental editing looks at all the important elements of writing to ensure that they will support the content of your work and successfully share your ideas with your readers.