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Everything Authors Need To Know About Developmental Editing

As a writer you know editing is synonymous with book publishing. Whether you're planning to traditionally publish or self-publish sooner or later you're going to want to hire a Developmental Editor to help clean and polish your work. Today we're divulging Developmental Editing secrets: What this type of editing brings to the table and how to find a developmental editor that's right for you and your book.

What is Developmental Editing?

Developmental Editing addresses the big picture of your story. Like the name suggests, it's geared towards the development of your novel and making suggestions to elevate the quality of a story, find any areas of weakness, and to fix any overarching problems. A Developmental Editor will help assess everything that makes up the meat of a novel. These include structure, pacing, setting, character development, worldbuilding, themes, symbolism, formatting, POV, plot holes, action sequences, dialogue- pretty much every aspect of storytelling that you can think of. This type of editor will analyze how all of these elements come together within your story, make suggestions of where it might be weak, and will provide ways to strengthen it.

When should you get Developmental Editing done?

Ideally you want to get a Developmental done after you've written a second or third draft of your novel, before any other types of editing have been done. Developmental Editing is going to give you feedback that will most likely require you to revise, remove, and move pieces of your novel. It's very in-depth and will result in changes to your draft that you might not otherwise have considered. It's perfect for authors who feel stuck with their draft, need feedback in order to fix a problem they know exists (or don't know specifically what the issue is but they know they have one). Keep in mind that one reason you want to do this type of editing before any other kind is that typically it's going to make things messy- meaning don't pay for a Copy Edit, which is designed to clean up your draft, when there's a chance you're going to change things based on your Developmental feedback.

Thinking about finding a Developmental Editor? Don't stress! Writing It Wells offers both Developmental and Copy Editing services. Send us an inquiry email at to learn more!

What's the difference between Developmental Editing and Content Editing?

This can become a bit confusing, so allow us to clarify. Developmental Editing refers to the in-depth analysis of a book's content. Content Editing refers to the assessment of content, typically online content like blogs, websites, and business-related writing. That being said, there are editors out there who identify themselves as Content Editors who edit books and editors out there who identify as Developmental Editors who only edit web content. Headache-inducing, right? The easiest way to know whether or not the editor you're looking at is right for your novel is by doing your research and asking questions about what exactly they offer. Some editors will have a list of their services readily available on their website or have a service list that you can request to see upon request.

What should you expect from your Developmental Editor?

Across the board here's what you can expect from your Developmental Editor. Most editors offer some sort of preliminary consultation, whether this is an intake conversation or a sample of their editing style (or both). These are per request and are typically free so don't hesitate to ask if you're unsure or are still comparing editors. Once you've decided to hire an editor, an agreement will be made in the form of an agreement letter that specifies the right to hire. This legally outlines what the editor will provide, the specified due date, and how much both parties agreed upon price-wise. From there, you send over your manuscript and let the magic happen. It's not unusual for Developmental Editing to take a month or longer. It depends on your word count, genre, and how much work your novel needs. For example, an epic fantasy novel will take longer than a sweet romance because there's more material to work with (like worldbuilding) and the length of the novel will vary greatly from one to the other. Most editors will provide in-document edits through a tool like Track Changes in Microsoft Word and will provide a synopsis paper that summarizes their changes/suggestions. When they're finished, you'll be contacted to pay your invoice and your edits and synopsis will be emailed to you. Pretty straightforward.


The Different Types Of Editing (And How To Tell Them Apart)

10 Quick Editing Tips For Perfecting Your Novel

Finding A Professional Editor (It Doesn't Have To Be Complicated)

What can you expect to pay for a Developmental Editor?

Hands down, Developmental Editing is the most expensive kind of editing available. This is largely because of the amount of time and effort it takes to do this type of editing is extensive. The amount it will cost, however, will vary. This boils down to the word count and genre of your book (A 15,000 word romance novella will not cost as much as a 120,000 word fantasy novel for example) and the experience level of your editor. The more experience, the more expensive your editing will be. While we can't speak to the exact amount your project might cost, we can tell you that the general range is between $500-$3,000. Again, this depends on multiple variables so it's best to come up with a budget you can afford and then find an editor that fits versus the other way around. Keep in mind that you'll probably want to do more than one type of editing and it all adds up when you create your budget.

How to find a Developmental Editor and know they're right for you!

Do your research, shop around, and when in doubt ask questions. Bottom line it's a process to find your dream editor, but it's a relationship that is arguably one of the most important that you'll ever have as an author. Find someone who vibes well with your personality, someone you feel completely understands your vision, someone your gut doesn't have an inch of doubt about. Be aware of the red flags (things like too-good-to-be-true pricing, lack of communication, or even just a bad feeling). Read reviews, talk to former clients (if you can), and ask questions to the editor in general. Ask them how many clients they've had, how long they've been editing for, their level of experience and background, what books they've worked on, and what their approach to editing is like. All of these will give you a strong understanding of whether they're the right editor, or not, for you.

Finding the right Developmental Editor can take time, effort, and money but is an invaluable resource to any writer. Developmental Editing can help you catch flaws in your story, make it cohesive, and elevate its overall potential.

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