How Developmental Editing Helps Writers Produce Successful Novels

What Is Developmental Editing?

Developmental editing is a type of editing that focuses on the big picture elements of a manuscript, such as its structure, pacing, character development, plot, tone, mood, and theme. The aim of developmental editing is to help writers improve the overall quality of their story and to ensure that it is coherent, engaging, and satisfying to the reader. We also call this type of editing structural editing, substantive editing, manuscript editing, and content editing.

What Does a Developmental Editor Do?

A developmental editor identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript and suggests ways to address them. This may involve restructuring the plot, adjusting the pacing, developing characters more fully, refining the writing style, and clarifying the theme.

Developmental editing can be especially helpful for writers who are struggling with a first draft or who are unsure how to improve their work. By providing feedback on the manuscript as a whole, a developmental editor can help writers identify areas that need improvement and suggest strategies for important revisions.

Image of a laptop, notepad, and tea for developmental editing

The Benefits of Developmental Editing

Some benefits of developmental editing for writers include the following:

Improved Story Structure

Improving the structure of a novel means making it more coherent and easier to follow. It involves organizing the story in a way that captures the reader’s attention, builds tension, and ultimately delivers a satisfying resolution. Additionally, it involves ensuring that the story is thematically consistent and that each element of the story serves a purpose in advancing the central conflict or theme.

A Tighter or More Refined Plot

This involves identifying and eliminating plot holes, inconsistencies, and other weaknesses in a novel. To create a tighter plot, the central conflict must be clear and well-defined. This conflict should be introduced early in the story and should be the driving force behind the plot. The plot should also be well-paced, with each scene or chapter contributing to the overall narrative and advancing the story towards its resolution.

Stronger Characterization

Developing and refining the characters in a novel makes them more realistic, relatable, and memorable. This can help readers connect with and care about the characters and their journey. Characters should be complex and multidimensional, with strengths and weaknesses that make them feel like real people. They should also experience growth and change over the course of the story, with their actions and decisions contributing to the overall narrative.

Improved Dialogue

Dialogue should be authentic, natural, and effective. This involves considering the subtext and underlying emotions of each character. Dialogue should not simply convey information; it should also reveal the characters’ inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations. This leads to more tension and conflict and therefore a more compelling story.

Enhanced Mood, Tone, and Theme

Enhancing the emotional and thematic elements of a novel makes it highly engaging. This includes working with the language, symbolism, metaphors, imagery, and settings used in the narrative. These elements can make the story more meaningful and it give it a deeper resonance.

Professional Quality

Ensuring the novel is of professional quality makes it more appealing to agents, publishers, and readers. This involves crafting a narrative that is polished and error-free and meets the highest standards of writing quality.

Greater Marketability

Improving the overall quality, readability, and appeal of a novel makes it more marketable. This can increase the chances of the novel being picked up by an agent or publisher. It can also help in finding a readership through self-publishing. This involves understanding the target audience and genre conventions. It also ensures that the story is original and stands out from others in the genre.

Also note that developmental editing is the first step of the editorial process and must be completed before a copy edit, since much of the manuscript will change with revisions.

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