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Developmental Editing

Red pens with text: Editorial Services by Jami Gold

I offer three levels of Developmental Editing: Summarized Developmental Edit, Full Developmental Edit, and Book Doctor Developmental Edit. Read on for more information about all of these options.

Developmental Editing is also known as a content edit. A developmental editor looks at the big picture. These edits are not intended to point out grammatical, sentence structure, or wording problems.

I’m a detail-oriented person, so I’ll mention those minor issues when I notice them—the first time. It’s up to the author to learn about and find and fix those problems throughout the manuscript. Line and/or copy edits are still recommended.

Every level of Developmental Editing I offer comes with an editorial feedback letter summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the story. I’ll touch on each of the elements mentioned below and provide additional thoughts and suggestions.

I’ll look for opportunities for improvement in the following areas:

  • story and character arcs (and if applicable, the romance arc)
  • plot events and turning points
  • conflicts, stakes, and tension
  • pacing and information dumps
  • characterization and likeability
  • goals and motivations
  • story and character themes
  • general writing issues, like showing versus telling and point-of-view usage

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Summarized Developmental Edit

For stories without major broken pieces, author will receive feedback in an editorial letter on how to strengthen various story elements.

This level includes an editorial letter only. This usually results in a minimum of 4 pages (1000 words) summarizing the issues, ranging up to 8+ pages if I discover many weaknesses.

Full Developmental Edit

For stories without major broken pieces, author will receive feedback in their manuscript and in an editorial letter on how to strengthen various story elements.

In addition to the editorial letter mentioned above, I’ll leave comments in the manuscript pointing out specific passages. This usually results in a minimum of 100 comments, ranging up to 200+ if I discover many weaknesses.

Book Doctor Developmental Edit

For non-working stories with major broken pieces, author will receive feedback identifying the broken elements and providing suggestions on how to fix them, as well as how to strengthen the overall story.

A story can be broken when the characters, arcs, pacing, goals, motivations, stakes, conflicts, plot points, tone, genre, themes, etc. don’t mesh at all. This level includes the deeper analysis to identify those broken elements of the story and provide suggestions on how to fix them.

Like the Full Developmental Edit level, I’ll provide an editorial letter and comments in the manuscript. However, due to the depth of the analysis, this usually results in an 8-16 page (2000-4000 word) editorial letter and 200-400 comments in the manuscript.

In addition, this level includes a single phone conversation (around 1-2 hours in length) to discuss and brainstorm potential solutions to the issues. The phone conversation should happen within one week of the emailed feedback to ensure the best communication of the story’s specific issues.

The “Small Print” for Developmental Editing Projects

Alternative to a Sample Edit: It’s important to find an editor who “gets” your voice and your story. However, the big picture issues I look for aren’t obvious in a typical “free sample edit” of the first 3-5 pages, so I instead offer the option of contracting for just the first 1-5 chapters. The feedback and initial price would be based on those chapters at the following rates:

  • Summarized Developmental Edit: $.016 per word
  • Full Developmental Edit: $.024 per word
  • Book Doctor Developmental Edit (no phone call): $.032 per word

After receiving that feedback, the author can decide whether to continue with the full manuscript. If the author contracts for the full within six months, the higher initial price would be credited to the normal prices listed at the edit levels above.

Limited Clients: To leave time for my writing and other writing obligations, I generally take on only one developmental editing project (at any level) per quarter. For this reason, I require a deposit of 50% to hold a slot for an author. In addition, I may request the first few chapters to review before contracting to ensure I’m the right editor for the story.

Format: I prefer to work in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx). At the Full and Book Doctor levels, I’ll leave comments in the manuscript pointing out specific sections that need work, as well as areas that work well. Standard manuscript format of 12 point font, one-inch margins, and double-spacing is expected.

Draft Quality: It’s best to submit post-first-draft quality stories so obvious issues won’t distract from the big picture. Depending on an author’s writing process, this might mean I’d see it after a self-editing author is stuck on what else to improve, before it’s sent out to beta readers, or after beta readers’ feedback was too vague or unhelpful.

Disclaimer for Mislabeled Stories: No story is expected to be perfect. However, there’s a difference between stories we know need “some work” or “have room for improvement” and those we’re tempted to chuck in a drawer forever because they’re so broken. The latter stories can usually be fixed with the feedback provided at the Book Doctor level.

During the course of a Summarized or Full Developmental Edit, I may suggest a switch to the Book Doctor level if I discover serious issues with the story and feel a deeper analysis and discussion of the issues is necessary. The author will have final say over this choice, but I reserve the right to stop the edit at that point and provide all analysis and notes compiled so far in exchange for any remaining payment of the word count completed.

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