Working with a Developmental Editor

Most writers know about line editors and copy editors, but most probably don’t consider developmental editors when thinking about publishing their own work.

A developmental editor is someone who looks at your writing early, and works with you to improve plot, pacing, characters arcs, and other story elements. Sometimes a writer can be too close to their own work to see the problems new readers may find immediately.

I decided to send my completed outline to a developmental editor for a consultation before beginning work on the first chapter.

Finding a Developmental Editor

I hired Ellen Brock, a professional editor who offers developmental, line, and copy editing services. Ellen also produces a series of writing and editing advice videos on her YouTube channel. That is how I discovered Ellen.

Her videos convinced me not only of her expertise, but also that she’d be the right editor for me, as our tastes in books aligned. After watching a dozen of her advice videos, I emailed her and booked a consultation, which happened a few days ago.

After reading my outline and writing a full critique letter, her email response began:

You clearly have a good sense of pacing and scene structure, which is awesome. There aren’t any concrete issues/errors with how you’ve created the outline, so we don’t have to worry about any fundamental issues. Most of my advice is focused on capitalizing on your vision to enhance marketability and entertainment value.

So that’s a strong start!

Her three page critique letter reiterated the above and then offered a number of suggestions for improvements throughout the outline, scenes that could be combined to improve pace, additional characters that could be added to enhance my protag’s struggle, etc.

I agreed with, and have started implementing all but one of her suggestions and I know my book is now stronger because of those suggestions.

If you’re interested in working with a developmental editor, I have a few tips:

Get Started Early

You don’t want to spend weeks or months writing your book, only to be told there is a fundamental issue with your story or characters. I decided to hold off on writing word one until I had the outline checked. That way if my plot were full of holes, or my characters were flat or shallow, Ellen could have alerted me and I could simply rework my outline, rather than trying to rework 50,000 words of a first draft.

Look for a Pro

Most indie writers use friends and family as beta readers and copy editors. And that’s okay if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by avid readers. But a developmental edit should be done by a professional. This means the service will cost you a little bit, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.

My edit cost me $150, two hours of Ellen’s time. And that $150 saved me weeks of rewriting, and gave me a decent confidence boost that my book is heading in the right direction. Before hiring anyone, check their previous work and references. In my case, I hired Ellen based on her strong advice videos and past professional experience.

So that’s it. My outline is now finished and I’ve got the go ahead from my editor. It’s time to head off and dive in to Chapter One!