Monday’s Writing Tips – Developmental Editing


Last week we discussed getting an editor and the types of editing that are available. This week I would like to present the need for a novelist to pay for and get professional developmental editing. As mentioned in the last blog, developmental editing offers suggestions about the content and structure of the book. The editor might suggest expanding or deleting sections, changing the plot of a work of fiction, or reorganizing the material.

This is the most detailed and delicate of all editing experiences. You have struggled over your novel for a long time. Chapter after chapter you have polished and revised your work. Sentence after sentence you have revamped and restructured your grammar. Each morning, (if you are like me) you have woken with new insight into making your plot exciting and unique. Laboring over your laptop for as long as you have gives you a sense that you have produced your best. That is why you are ready to share your work with someone else. You feel proud of your novel. It is only when you think your work has reached the state of perfection that you are ready to share it with a professional editor.

I don’t know what I expected the first time I sent my novel out to be edited? I know what my imagination conjured. In my fantasy the editor was so impressed they sent it unchanged to their best friend. Of course their best friend just happened to be the head of a large publishing house. My novel  reached the best-seller list by the next month.

Guess what? That isn’t what happened. I received a manuscript back with pages of comments and revisal suggestions. I couldn’t believe it! How could they not see that this novel was a classic, a work of art? How could I change it? How could I trust this person if they couldn’t see the wonder of this work?

At this point I needed to take a deep breath, say a prayer, and face reality. It is hard to deal with the comments and suggestions that the editor will surely make. Your book is your baby. How would you feel if a professional nanny came by and told you your baby would look cuter with a smaller nose, plumper cheeks and more hair? You would be highly insulted and think that the nanny had a lot of nerve insulting your perfect little baby. You will feel the same when the editor gets done with your book.

You need to remember that the editor works for you and they have your best interest at heart. They want your book to be a success. They want you to be published and the best way for you to be published is to correct any errors and have someone look at your book like the acquisition editors will. The acquisition editors who work at the publishing companies are swamped with submissions and manuscripts. They have only a short time and can read only a small section of your work to decide if it is for their publishing house. Your editor wants to present the novel in the best light. After all, if you get a novel published that they edited it is a credit to them. And chances are you will have them edit your next novel.

A writer needs a thick skin, and this is not the only time you will have the opportunity to display what a professional you are. So straighten your shoulders, dig into your pocket and pay for the developmental editing. It will be worth it. Make sure you include the line, copy editing and proof-reading.  You will make your work shine and be ready to present your polished work to the world. Having your work professionally edited makes you look like a professional yourself. Aren’t you a professional writer?

Footnote: One of the editors suggested by the CWG – Patrice Fagnant MacAuthur – contacted me with her info. You can reach her at pfmacarthur@comcast

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