On Editing: What Exactly Does a Developmental Editor DO?

What Happens the Morning After?

Guest post by Stacy Teitel

Developmental Editing

© Rinderart | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Revision. That word is not music to every writer’s ears.

But I love it. LOVE. IT.

I revise extensively in my own writing, and as a developmental editor I help writers strengthen their manuscripts.

You, the writer, fell in lust with your story, although you can’t remember why as you look at the tangled, messy draft before you. It’s like the morning after a hot one-night stand, and the person snoring next to you isn’t as good looking as your vodka-induced brain had thought.

Well, now you have to shower, brush your teeth, and put on your big girl (or boy) pants. Then you call your developmental editor.

I answer my phone; don’t worry.

Because let’s face it—revising can be overwhelming. The word count goal is suddenly replaced with The Goal. And sometimes, the thought of revision is enough to make you crawl back to what’s-his-name from last night and convince yourself you could overlook all those bothersome things and fall in lust all over again.

As they say, write drunk but edit sober. It’s time to put away the vodka.

A developmental editor assists writers in revision, comes up with fresh ideas, and offers specific solutions. In addition to editing, my goal is to help writers get focused and organized, to a level where they can feel good about sitting down to revise so it’s not so daunting.

These are some of the tasks I do to a writer’s manuscript (and ones writers can use too):

  • Organize content to make sure plot points line up and are timed well within the structure (acts, moments of no turning back, final battles, etc.), identify gaps and loose ends, condense info dumps and look for ways to apply information in more useful contexts.
  • Ensure the conflict (opposing forces) is strong, and that the hero and antagonist have motivations.
  • Analyze characters for consistency and find opportunities to further develop traits, habits, reasoning, thoughts, and actions.
  • Check the pace and correct areas that may bore or confuse readers. This can be anywhere from heightening tension in a conversation to adjusting the timing of action moments and scenes for plausibility.
  • Look for areas to layer more setting detail and description to help ground readers, or to condense backstory and info dumps. This includes expanding on descriptions, helping descriptions work harder to reveal more information than what’s on the surface.

Additionally, make sure every scene has a purpose and that the end of chapters keep readers turning the page.

I’ve seen many a first draft, and when I work with writers, I want to get the best out of them, no matter what purpose they’re writing for.

Revision is only part of a writer’s journey, (or a necessary evil, if you prefer). But don’t you just love falling in lust love again? A final draft is something to hum about.

I’m always interested in how writers revise, how they tackle levels of revision, and who they rely on in their process.

So, how do you feel about revision? I love hearing from writers!

Also, I’m collecting feedback to keep myself informed about what writers struggle with the most in their work. If you would like to answer a few questions about writing and editing, you can fill out this form anonymously.

Stacy Teitel is an editor at Apoidea Editorial, a developmental editing service to help fiction writers strengthen their manuscripts. When she’s not working with authors, you can find her copyediting and managing content for eMarketingVS. Some of her favorite things to do are watching political and crime shows, drinking good-quality coffee, and snuggling up with her Kindle. Follow her on Twitter @ApoideaEdits or visit her website.

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About Jen Barry

Author of Young Adult novels. Reside in Nashville with my husband, a gorgeous Irishman. Drink too much coffee. Online way too much.

2 thoughts on “On Editing: What Exactly Does a Developmental Editor DO?

  1. […] On Editing: What Exactly Does a Developmental Editor DO?. […]

  2. […] Sometimes it’s hard to sober up after that wild night of writing! I guest blogged over at Fight For Your Write about the importance of developmental editing and how writers can get organized when they go to revise their manuscripts. Read it here. […]

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