Developmental Editing – Part II

In Part I we talked about why you need an editor and briefly noted the different types of editing.

In subsequent parts we’ll define what an editor does in each type of edit, starting with developmental editing.


Before we get into developmental editing though, lets take a second to tell you what an editor, any editor, should never do.

  • Make corrections to your document, no matter how insignificant, without your permission!
  • Write your story for you! (That’s called ghost writing)
  • Change or rewrite your story or document, under any circumstances! (That’s called co-authoring.)

Remember, this is your story, not theirs!


Okay, your story is done! Well, sorta.

So, how do you know what type of editing help you need?

Easy, ask the editor.

Any good editor should first evaluate your story and advise you of what they think it needs. For us, this is typically done by requesting the first chapter of your story and another about three quarters of the way through.

Why? Because, first of all we want to see what state your story is in. If it’s a collection of PostIt notes (like above) or only an outline, you definitely need a developmental edit. An extensive developmental edit!

If it appears your chapters are comprehensive, your story is complete (yes, we can tell) and your writing follows most of the rules, you likely only need one form of a line edit.

Of course, there is a lot of in between territory. We’ve seen stories go south in Chapter 4. Sub plots from Chapter 6 to 10 that added nothing to the story. Things stolen from other places and stuck in. Stories written by several people that changed style with each chapter.

So, why Chapter 1 and a far in chapter?

Simple. There are rules for the first chapter that are used to pull the reader into your story. Did you follow them? Did you even know about them?

Also, your writing should get better as you go. Does it? Are you getting into your story, falling in love with your characters, improving your descriptions as you write?

If not, we’ve got a lot more story suggestions (developmental editing) to come up with.


Simply put, developmental editing concentrates on helping you develop and keep true your story, your characters and your scenes.

As editors, we’ll work with the author by providing guidance, feedback and critiquing the following areas:

  • Structure
  • Characterization/character arcs
  • Goals, motivation, conflict
  • Correct point of view
  • Show don’t tell
  • Plot
  • Pace
  • Genre specific and appropriate form
  • Believable and genre specific dialog
  • Balance between narrative and dialog
  • Scene descriptions

We’ll also provide templates and a checklist as requested or needed.

Our whole intent is to keep you from getting frustrated as you build your story.

As we stated in Part I, we’re a second set of eyes intended to help you perfect your work. In developmental editing that means helping you build a complete story that pulls the reader in from Chapter 1 and holds their attention till “The End”.

We hope we’ve also made it clear that developmental editing can run from helping you build your outline to barely tweaking your story. In the later case, you’re more likely to need a heavy line edit, which will be part of what we cover in Part III.


We love questions so, is there anything else that you would expect an editor to comment on or help with during a developmental edit?


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