Developmental editing is a form of editing that is incredibly thorough. Arguably, it is the most significant restructuring of a manuscript and can approach the work from all and any angles. It examines all elements of writing from the smallest word to the greater plot structure and style. Development edits tend to focus on plot holes, characters, and more aspects that might disengage readers.
A development edit for fiction novels can either be the same thing or overlap with the term Content Editing or substantive editing. While development edits can occur at any stage of a manuscript’s life (even before the topic is conceived), content edits usually are for post-first draft. According to Reedsy, an editorial assessment is more proper for when a draft is in the early stages instead.
However, an author retains control over the content and can choose to include or deny suggested edits. Balance between accepting suggestions or not is a necessary discernment for the author, especially when self-publishing.
The hunt for an editor is an important one. It is something that I am currently going through. While money is certainly an issue for the moment, it is becoming a secondary one. Ideally, I’d like to find an editor or two that I can trust and enjoy to help develop my works to another level that I couldn’t reach on my own. Someone who I respect and want to work with. I’ve started a small list of editors that I have my eye on, but I don’t know how approachable or realistic it is to work with them or whether I’ll go bankrupt doing so.
Therefore, in the meantime I’ll continue editing by myself and asking my partner to proofread/line edit for free. He used to work as an editor, so I’m lucky in that regard… but he takes forever. What’s that triangle formula? Cheap, Fast, Good? So, Cheap and Good, can’t have Fast.
A question I am currently dealing with is whether I want to build a team of editors over time. For instance, finding a particular editor (or two) that I can hire for developmental edits, but having another editor for line-edits, and an entirely different one for proof-reading.
The reason why I ‘m considering this is because I’m aware the more fresh eyes that read a manuscript, the more likely that certain mistakes or oddities will be noticed and mentioned.
I do not consider editors like gods or the breath-of-life or essential gates on the descent to publication (or is that ascension?), but I understand that they can offer fresh eyes and a separate mind to the work with a professional approach. Perhaps that’ll change through potential experiences while working with editors in the future, but I’ll leave myself the space to find that out then.
Out of all styles of editing, developmental editing is one of the most in-depth and comprehensive opportunities to polishing a manuscript for publication.