Do you need a Developmental Editor?

This post explores what questions to ask of yourself and your manuscript to determine if you’re ready for editing.

First, all editing is not the same. There are multiple ways that an editor can prepare your manuscript for publication.

Developmental Editors

Developmental editors look at the “big picture” of your story. Whether your story is real or fictional, there are several elements that have to be consistent, and develop through the conflict to a resolution, during the course of your story.

  • Are the characters clearly described?
  • Are they three dimensional with the sense of a past that explains how they act
  • Do they have wants and needs that are driving them to do things (motivation)?
  • Is the setting specific enough so that the characters are clearly in a place, rather than in a void?
  • Does the setting for each scene make sense for what’s happening?
  • Does the main plot progress logically, driven by conflict between what a character needs and the obstacles they face to get it?
  • Do the subplot(s) progress just as logically, driven by inner conflicts between what a character wants and needs and what they are equipped to do emotionally, intellectually, and physically?
  • Are all the scenes present to show what caused different effects and actions?
  • Is the point of view consistent?
  • Is the perspective chosen for the point of view in each scene the best choice for creating tension or unfolding the suspense or mystery?
  • Is each scene doing something to develop readers’ understanding of the characters and conflict?
  • Does the story contain all the hallmarks expected by readers of the genre?

Choose a developmental editor if you feel like any of these questions are not answered well in your manuscript, or if beta readers keep telling you something is missing/wrong, but they don’t know specifically what it is or how to fix it. A developmental editor may construct a style guide for your work as a way to provide consistency for words unique to your story “universe” (such as: is it “hover-craft” or “hovercraft” or “light-speed” or “lightspeed”). It will include how various unique names are consistently spelled or how the “class system” works in your society.

If you have created notes about these things for your fantasy/sci-fi work, providing these to your editor will only be a first step. A lot more will be undoubtedly added as the developmental editor works. This is because the developmental editor is an advocate for the reader – what the reader needs to know to make sense of your world(s) may be things you never thought important to explain, because it’s already in your head.

Maybe you need a Copy Editor instead?

Published by Lara Zielinsky

I have been writing and publishing for 20 years. I have been an editor of fiction for 15+ years. I am married, live in Florida and work from home full time as an editor.

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