Goal: Ensures that the central message of the book is consistent and that the author’s tone remains consistent.
A manuscript must go through developmental editing before anything else. It’s the first (and most important) editing phase. Since I have identified the target reader in the previous step, I read through the book from their perspective. I keep an eye out for all of the following issues:
- Ensure that the central message presented by the author is consistent through the book.
- Fiction: The overall plot and character arcs.
- Non-Fiction: The message, tone, and wording.
- Ensure that the book flows naturally from one point to the next.
- Reordering chapters is quite common in non-fiction books.
- Improper transitions from one scene to another are quite common in fiction books.
- Ensure that the author’s tone is consistent throughout the book.
- Tag any information presented as fact so it can be sourced. I will generally flag them and leave this up to the author since they are the one who pulled the fact.
Most issues are flagged using the comments feature in Microsoft Word. I will then send the book back to the author with detailed explanations of why certain things were flagged. The final decision is up to the author but I will reemphasize a point if I feel strongly about it.
Developmental editing does not encompass extensive rewrites by the editor. In most cases, the author prefers to perform these rewrites themselves since they are so close to their book.
Once the author addresses all of the developmental editing recommendations, I will then reread the book and make sure it all checks out.
Note: This process is repeated until all issues are resolved. It is time-consuming and requires a significant amount of work.
I want to reassure authors that developmental editing is required by every manuscript. It can be painful to have someone point out problems with something so close to you but this is essential to publishing a high-value book. I promise you’d much rather have an editor point this stuff out than have to read it from some random internet stranger who leaves a one-star review.