What is Developmental Editing?

Developmental editing is the process by which an editor works alongside a writer to help develop the first draft of a manuscript.

Urban mural by Case Maclaim, 2016. Photo by Jessica Hatch, 2016.

Developmental work can be performed for fiction and non-fiction alike. It is an umbrella term for many different editorial responsibilities related to the manuscript. Its responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Book Research: A case in which the editor provides the author with notes, as well as primary and secondary resources on topics related to the editorial project. For instance, if the client is interested in writing about the golden age of piracy as it relates to gender roles in Western Europe, the editor could comb through historical documents to provide the writer with valuable background information, so the writer can spend more time, well, writing!
  • Outline Creation & Structural Consultation:A case in which the editor helps create the timeline and narrative arc of the manuscript. The editor can either create the project’s entire outline, or assist the author with feedback on an existing outline.
  • Chapter-by-Chapter Editorial Feedback:
    Unlike a manuscript evaluation, in which an editor gives overarching feedback for an entire book-length project, chapter-by-chapter feedback allows for constructive criticism to happen on a micro-scale. Much like an airplane’s control panel helps a pilot deftly maneuver through airspace, chapter-by-chapter feedback can help calibrate plot and character development so that less revision is needed when the manuscript is completed.
  • Ghostwriting:
    Sometimes a writer, especially a novice writer, has an idea for a book, but is unsure of how he or she should execute the idea. In this case, the developmental editor will interview the writer or ask for any available prewriting materials (e.g. outlines, character bios, memoir timelines). The editor will then work closely with the writer to bring the book into being. Ghostwriting is so called because the book is attributed to the author, while the ghostwriter may be thanked in the acknowledgements.

Is Developmental Editing a Good Fit for Me?

If you are motivated and finding it easy to put fingers to keys on your writing project, then developmental editing is probably not for you. You may find manuscript evaluation more valuable.

However, if you’re finding yourself stuck or have contracted writer’s block in some way, then working with a developmental editor can be a great motivational tool.

Remember that the main goal of developmental editing is to get a first draft out of your head and onto paper. As Rebecca Solnit says, “[N]othing is born perfect. Well, some things almost are, but they’re freaks” (source). A first draft born of developmental editing may be more polished than one that isn’t, but chances are, this first draft will still need some work after it’s completed.

Working with Hatch Editorial Services on a Developmental Editing Project

If you’re in need of a developmental editor, I would love to be of service. I can be your sounding board and energy source, bolstering your confidence while keeping the project’s forward motion in mind. I’m here when you need me and gone when you don’t, with a negotiable hourly rate and monthly invoicing.

For more information about developmental editing, contact me here.


Originally published at hatch-books.com.