What is Developmental Editing?

Developmental editing, otherwise known as substantive editing or content editing, deals with the big picture elements of your manuscript. This refers to the characters, the settings, the worldbuilding, the plot, and more. Developmental editing is similar to an editorial assessment in this way, but it deals with the story line by line, rather than being an overview. It still focuses on the big picture elements of the story, but instead of a report given to you by your editor, they will typically make their notes directly in your manuscript document.

Some things your editor may look for are plot holes, poor character development, inconsistent description, confusing dialogue, awkward sentence phrasing, and more—all problems relating to the elements of your story.

As with an editorial assessment, developmental editing is considered the first step to take after finishing your draft. If you’ve decided to get an editorial assessment, do that first. [If you have no idea what an editorial assessment is, click here.]

What is it like to work with a developmental editor?

The main thing to keep in mind is that all editors are different, even if the general consensus is the same. Some developmental editors may give you an in-depth “editorial letter” like what you’d get for an editorial assessment, while others may go through your manuscript line by line and add comments about what needs to be fixed. Another important thing to note is that the developmental editing process may lead to a series of rewrites; it’s not just a one-and-done thing.

The best thing for your editor is to not only provide the manuscript but also as much information about the book as you can. They may ask for this information, or they may say they don’t need it. Offering extra info is always polite, and if there is anything that you aren’t willing to share for confidentiality reasons, let them know that as well.

On places like Fiverr and Reedsy you can expect to pay around $20-28 USD per 1000 words for an average assessment. In Canada, that would be around $25-36 per 1000 words. As you can see, that’s quite a bit higher than an editorial assessment, which is only $10-12 USD. It’s also higher than technical editing such as copyediting or proofreading.

Expect in return for your money extensive commentary about your book. A good editor will be very clear in their comments, and if you don’t understand any of them, be sure to ask! Don’t be shy—it’s part of their job to give comments that make sense.

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3 responses to “What is Developmental Editing?”

  1. […] Read more about Developmental Editing here. […]

  2. […] developmental, also known as content or substantial editing, deals with the actual story. [Click here for a longer explanation.] An editor will make comments about the characters, the settings, the […]

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