Developmental Editing

What is a Dev Edit?

Three phases take your project
from rough to finished story

A developmental edit is a significant undertaking that requires a collaborative and open mindset from both author and editor.

A copy editing sample (free up to 1,500 words) is definitely recommended before we dive in. You’ll want to see if the type of feedback I give when suggesting line edits and make recommendations or suggestions about character or plot development meets you “where you are.” I strongly recommend sending me a scene around chapter 4 or 5. This way I can incorporate some developmental edit types of comments and alerts with questions about character development or possible plot holes.

These comments will be things like: “if you have already established that the character has X trait, then this dialogue makes sense, otherwise you’ll want to add it in” or “you’ll want to make sure in a previous scene that you have explained Y concept, because, otherwise, in this dialogue the lingo doesn’t make it clear what’s actually happening.”

A developmental edit considers the entire work, and all the character and plot arcs contained in it, when making suggestions for improvements. Suggestions will go something like this: “this scene should be removed, but the following details from it should be moved to scene X, Y, and Z.” and then in scenes X, Y, and Z, strategies for incorporating those details are made as comments.

If you’ve already been through beta readers, I do provide a less-expensive service called manuscript evaluation. It provides an overview of what’s done well, what needs revision, and what needs to be removed or added in a general sense to meet the genre’s characterization, setting, and plot needs.

The difference: a dev edit starts with this, but then adds specific suggestions for fixes in the story file, using Track Changes and Comments.

My standard developmental edit contract has three phases. Phase 1 produces the report with suggestions and strategies for rewriting and revising. Phase 2 is coaching, feedback, and support while you do the revisions.

If you’re starting a series, I also include the development of a series style guide during phase 1. This document details everything unique to your world-building, spellings and parts of speech forms for all lingo, also character and place names so that facts can be quickly looked up and not contradicted.

In my standard contract for a developmental edit, as I mentioned, there is a phase 3. Once you are satisfied that the rewriting has been done, phase 3 is where I do a front-to-back copy edit. This covers tone, voice, word choice, sentence structure while double-checking that all the new and revised material fits smoothly with the rest.

Note: what I provide as a copy edit also includes line editing. Line editing fixes punctuation, spelling, grammar, and readability by reordering phrases and clauses, or adjusting sentence lengths, to smooth the reader’s path through the narrative.

Any series style guide will be updated during phase 3 also, with style instructions for pages that start chapters, what graphic and spacing is used for scene breaks, as well as any text attributes for specific elements (such as italics for internal thoughts and how text message conversations are formatted). This part of the guide is helpful to give your book formatter, and will assure that all books in the series have a consistent look.

By the time the phase 3 copy editing is done, your story is nearly publication ready. All that remains is formatting the file for ebook and print, and proofreading (which I strongly recommend is given to fresh eyes).

Because of the complexity and depth of a developmental edit, it’s usually 10-12 weeks of working together, so I have a payment plan. The overall cost for a 90k project would be $1000. This would be paid out in 4 installments, about 2-3 weeks apart:

Time frames for the phases would be about 2-3 weeks, depending on the length of the manuscript.

If you’re writing a series:

Because I have a “teaching” approach, my comments explain why a change is going to improve things. My series authors have only needed the developmental edit for the first book. After going through the process with me, they have gotten a super solid grip on how to structure their story. I tend to only need to copy edit future books. I do always double-check everything while copy editing though, and let an author know if something is out of whack.