Why to Invest in Developmental Edits

It’s the new year, the time when many authors set goals for their writing projects and may look toward future steps for their books. So today, for any of you looking into editing and/or publishing in the coming year, I want to offer some insight into the three primary types of editing and why each one is important to not overlook.

We’re going to start with the edits that cover the most large-scale problems in a manuscript: Developmental Edits. These are also sometimes called Content Edits… although so are line edits, which are a separate category, so it’s kind of confusing. (I don’t know why editors have such inconsistent terminology.)

Anyway, developmental edits (or content edits; whichever you prefer) focus on the structural integrity of your story. This is where you’ll get feedback on your plot structure, character arcs and development, theme, potentially your worldbuilding… anything that’s going to impact the order and overall shape of your story. A developmental editor will pick out extraneous or awkward scenes, suggest elements to add to strengthen your structure, make sure your overall pacing is right for the story you’re trying to tell, encourage you to flesh out mediocre characters, etc.

Why are developmental edits important? Well… just like a house needs a firm foundation, an animal needs a complete and well-ordered skeleton, and a computer needs solid wiring, a story needs a sturdy structure to build off of. A compelling plot, theme, and characters are what will really engage your reader and keep them engaged. They’re also what make your book work to fulfill the purpose you have in mind. They’ll ensure that your theme is strong (without being overbearing), that your characters connect with readers exactly the right way, and that your worldbuilding serves the story.

Can you get away without developmental edits? If you’re a decent writer, maybe. If you can make your story function even if it’s not as strong as it could be, you can probably get by without developmental edits. But it’ll be sort of like building a lean-to rather than a stand-alone house. It’s a functional shelter, but probably not ideal. A developmental editor will help you take your story from functional to strong, which will ultimately strengthen any themes within your story and heighten overall reader enjoyment.

Where to find a developmental editor

I have yet to work with a developmental editor personally, but I’ve heard good reports about Jane Maree. If you’ve worked with a great developmental editor, drop your recommendation down in the comments to help out other readers!

Are you looking to edit a book in the next year?

Next week we’ll discuss line edits, which are my personal favorite.

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