Five Things A Developmental Editor Does

For those who want an in-depth look at their manuscript by a professional, a developmental edit is a must. Though this option takes a little more time and money, if you’d like to ensure that your fiction (or even non-fiction) book is the best it can be, contracting with a developmental editor is the way to do that. Still not sure whether a developmental editor is what you need? The list below describes the services they will provide to polish your manuscript into something publish-ready.

1. Analyze the character arcs. The most important thing to keep in mind when writing a story is how the main character (and supporting characters, to a lesser extent) change throughout the course of it. How do the book’s events impact those people? A developmental editor will comment on whether the character arcs of your book are existent, and if they are obvious enough. To give an example from my own work—in my novel “The Charismatics,” I wanted to focus on a young woman who chooses to live in naivety, turning a blind eye to the suffering of those around her. Through the book however, she is challenged to be strong and courageous, and to fight her fear and do what is right. This is typically known as a “hero arc,” and is very prevalent in books—an individual who has to choose whether to utilize the power given to them to help those in need. A developmental editor will help you to identify these character arcs in your own book and help to tease them out even further, improving the manuscript that much more. You want your readers to feel like there is a “point” to the story.

2. Look at the behaviors/dialogue of characters. Another thing a developmental editor will do is to look at the behavior of the characters as well as their dialogue to see whether it is believable. Do they say things that seem appropriate for their character? Are they multi-faceted—does the villain show mercy at any point? Does the hero have a flaw? These things are important to include to write an intriguing, well-rounded story. A developmental editor can help to enhance this.

3. Ensure that the scenes are cohesive. Does the order of your manuscript’s scenes make sense, and does everything have a purpose? This is where the phrase “killing your darlings” comes in—you may have loved a descriptive scene of the setting, but if it slows down the action, your editor will cut it (as they rightfully should). A developmental editor is going to help you with one of the most important things about a storyline—does it entice the reader to continue?

4. Locate areas that need better explaining. This is especially important in books set in another world, or with fantasy/paranormal/science fiction elements. As an author, you can see the world so clearly in your head, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been described fully enough on the page. A developmental editor will identify any issues regarding this, and help you to address them.

5. Identify plot holes. A “plot hole” is an unavoidable evil in a manuscript—it can be hard to remember all the objects and descriptions that come into play within your 90,000 words. Let’s say a character has brown hair in the beginning of the novel, but suddenly its gone red halfway through. That’s a plot hole. Or perhaps a knife existed two thirds of the way through but we don’t know how the character got it. Another plot hole. A developmental editor is going to assist you with finding these oversights and fixing them, so that your book is cohesive and makes sense from start to finish.

As you can see, a developmental editor is extremely helpful with tweaking and polishing the overall content of your novel. I strongly encourage you to consider this avenue if you have the time, the funds, and want a product you can truly be proud to publish.

Until next time, keep writing and keep dreaming!