What is Development Editing?

A Detailed Guide To Developmental Editing

When asking the question, 'what is developmental editing?', you can expect the answer to be complicated and nuanced. However, the basic concept is simple.

In short, this type of editing is a process by which a developmental editor helps prepare a book for publication, either traditional or self-publishing.

This said, the editing process is both complex and time-consuming and requires an understanding of what editing options are available to you, and what is best for you and your current book.In the article, we will answer the question, 'what is developmental editing?' You will learn how developmental editors approach a book edit, and you'll discover why this type of editing is an essential part of the publishing process.

What is Developmental Editing?

Developmental editing is known by several names, including content editing, structural editing, story editing, comprehensive editing, macro editing, or even heavy editing. However, the most common alternative is called substantive editing.

But they are all the same.

The role of the developmental editor is to ensure that a book is of a publishable standard.

Wikipedia describes developmental editing as "significant structuring or restructuring of a manuscript's discourse".

In reality, editing is a much more involved process. The professional editor will examine the entire manuscript in the process, considering all aspects of the book, including its narrative and structure. They will also consider readability, plot, and flow. Some freelance developmental editors will also look out for line-level problems, such as sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. The better editors will assess a book's suitability for the marketplace. They may also help you to pinpoint the book's genre correctly.

Developmental Editing Questions

Unlike copy editing, which follows a rigid manual of style, developmental editing is very much about an editor's education, experience, and 'gut feeling'.

This means that the developmental editor's skill is critical if they are to deliver a high-quality developmental edit. During the editorial process, the editor will continuously hold several open-ended questions in their mind. They will apply these questions as they read.

Here are some examples of these questions (there are more, but they are often genre-specific):

It is worth noting that line editing is not part of the developmental editorial process. However, at BubbleCow we include line editing as part of the service.

When is a Developmental Edit Required?

In this article, I outlined the different types of editing and when each should be applied to a book.

In essence, a traditionally published book will go through three types of editing.

The first task of editing is to identify any significant issues with the book and outline the changes that need to be made.

The next is copy editing. This is where typos are fixed, and consistency is applied to the manuscript.

The book will then be prepared for paper and digital publishing. This process means the text must be laid out and converted to different formats. This process can add errors. Therefore, the third round of editing is required; this is called proofreading.

types of editing

Final Thoughts on Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is an essential part of the publishing process. It occurs once a book is deemed 'ready' and is often the first time the writer has received critical feedback, or worked with a developmental editor. This type of editing will stimulate some level of rewriting, and the book may undergo several revisions before it is ready for the next stage.

However, finding a professional developmental editor can be hard and developmental editing may be a complex and time-consuming process, but it remains an essential part of the publication process.