The sheer amount of courage and willpower that a writer has to muster to start writing a book is phenomenal. It's heartbreaking to see them lose all of that motivation when their originally intended idea does not turn out to be as impressive as they thought it would.
Most of the time, the difference between a fairly average book and a bestseller is just one little detail that changes its whole impact. There are, in fact, loosely defined criteria for the marketability of a book in its respective genre. A developmental editor is someone who recognizes the hidden potential in a book.
Developmental editors bring out such factors that make the book shine, increase its value and turn it into a pleasurable experience for all of its readers. But what really is developmental editing, and what is it not?
Let's take a look at how editing is categorized into different kinds.
What are the 5 major types of edits?
Editing is a broad term applied to a range of operations with the same end goal: to refine the book and carve out the best version of it. But an editor can go about it in a number of different ways based on perspective and focus. There are five different types of editing:
- Copy editing
- Line Editing
- Developmental Editing
- Substantive Editing
Each type of edit is different than the other in the slant in which the manuscript is conceived. But each type of edit shares some overlap in its jurisdiction with others while still being different in its approach.
Developmental editing, as the name suggests, starts in the development phase of books. It looks at the big picture story of the book.
When an author develops an idea and starts the process of writing a manuscript, it is initially just crude concepts loosely bound together in a plot that requires a lot of refining to come out as a well-crafted piece of prose that readers will stay hooked to.
Developmental editors look at the book from the reader's eyes and evaluate its marketability as they craft a developmental edit of it. They do not indulge in the details; rather, they focus on the themes, plots, flow, organization of ideas, and other elements of the kind in developmental editing that create the overall outlook of the book.
For fiction books, a developmental edit can mean rethinking story arcs to make them impactful in the story progression. A professional editor could also suggest character attributes, different point-of-views and strategies for telling the same story, shorten lengthy and boring narratives into juicy action without altering the plot, etc.
In developmental editing of non-fiction, the editors will try to improve the stance of the authors on a notion, find their strong points, edit out false claims, and strengthen their arguments. They create a flow of information that is persuasive while staying accurate, interesting without losing touch with reality and concrete while being considerate. Many non-fiction writers choose to learn under a professional developmental editor of their niche before they settle on the underlying idea or message for publishing.
Structure editing, also known as substantive editing or content editing, dives deeper into the words. While developmental editing is about evaluating the master plan, substantive editing deals with improving the organization and composition of the writing.
In terms of fiction books, the editor guides how each story arc should be written, when and how to introduce new ideas or characters, the pace of progression, reader engagement, etc. This type of editor may help create atmospheres, show the readers a vision rather than words on pages, take interesting angles towards a conflict, give depth to the arcs, and instill tension.
For non-fiction, substantive editing can mean strengthening the author's argument, transforming the accounts of the author into an enjoyable read, protecting them from accidentally claiming false facts, rearranging the order in which points are made for maximum impact, etc. Non-fiction editors are specialized in their genres and usually do not work outside of their area of expertise.
Copy editors look at the manuscript as a piece of text with a technical vision. Copy editing is often employed after the authors are done with the manuscript and now need editors to remove errors in the grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, word choice, etc.
Small mistakes and errors like that might turn off a reader completely even if they've been reading your books for some time. In an established publishing house, copy editing is done by professional editors.
What is the difference between developmental editing and copyediting?
While developmental editing focuses on the big picture, good work quality, market potential, and feedback for issues that could be fixed, copyediting is more focused on getting feedback in the mechanical aspects of writing.
The process of copyediting starts after the manuscript is complete and ready to be sent to a publishing house. Copy-editors look at the paragraphs technically to ensure it's grammatically correct.
Line editing is a process that is almost as microscopic as copyediting. It focuses on improving the flow of writing, stabilizing the pace, enriching the tone as necessary, and other factors like that. Line editing digs deeper than structure editing. The editors go through each line and make sure the selection of words and composition is right for the topic.
Line editing and copyediting are interchangeable terms in a big publishing house or agencies that provide editorial services, but there is a reason for that. They offer both those editorial services together. Both types of editing are focused on solving the issues after the manuscript is written.
Proofreading is the last filter in the editorial process of a manuscript and is the most important. Once a book is published, what's written in it is set in stone. Authors might wish they could go back and change a typo, but that one error is going to stay there like insecurity that readers will most definitely find.
That's why proofreading is necessary, whether your budget allows it or not. It cleanses your content of all grammatical issues and errors that were left behind in the manuscript. If your budget can not allow you to hire a professional editor, you can send your manuscript to people who are close to you for beta-reading. More often than not, they can offer valuable advice and help you correct any errors.
For this purpose, authors who are members of online clergies or forums for writers are at an advantage. Especially if you're writing fiction, these forums can help hone your writing skills with writing prompts and discussions.
What Does a Developmental Editor Do?
A developmental editor is like a mentor for the author. They help and guide the writer from the first paragraph till the project is out of the development process. They help them build the plot, choose the right settings, find the right tone, edit out unnecessary details, make the text concise, and employ their years of experience to give feedback on what's going to sell best. Developmental editors will even sometimes work with the author until after the developmental edit is done if the writer needs them to continue guiding them until the story is concluded.
Many new authors, who are writing a book for the first time, might need more than just a line editor to start pushing their boundaries from the first project. A well-edited book, even if it's written by a first-time writer, may be polished into a best seller if it goes into the hands of a good, professional developmental editor. Moreover, through the developmental editing process, the writers may get to learn significantly from the years of experience the developmental editors have picked up after joining hands with various authors and reading their work.
One might think that if a developmental edit needs so much experience and years of developmental editorial work under the editor's belt, why aren't they publishing their own books? The story of a developmental editor usually always starts as an author.
After acquiring so much expertise in the writing industry, they are sought after by other writers for developmental editing. So if you need an editor for developmental editing, you can get one in the form of a writer you might know who has experience in the genre you're writing in. Other than that, you can also get an editor to edit your manuscript for free if you can find someone with experience on a writing platform or forum who is interested in your idea.
If you're an author looking to improve your book and turn it into a bestseller, we suggest that you invest in a developmental edit to polish your manuscript as well as hone your skills as a writer. Investment in this arena is never a bad bet. However, just like all investments in life, you should investigate and research a little before spending your hard-earned money, especially if your purpose of writing a book is to make some money on the side.
We wish you the best of luck on your writing journey.