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A story board sketch of some scenes. Hand drawn images in boxes, with lines beneath to fill in the narrative. Relevant because developmental editing involves work with scenes.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing looks at the building blocks that are at the core of your story. The process will highlight the components of your manuscript that are incredibly strong as well as those that need revision. It will provide you with the tools and framework to correct and enhance the foundations of your manuscript so that readers experience your story as intended. The focus will be on the key storytelling elements including plot, pace, characterisation, structure, perspective, conflict, setting, genre and narrative voice. A fiction editor specialising in fantasy and sci-fi will create a spreadsheet keeping track of all of your worldbuilding elements like spells and gadgets and whatever dragons or elves might crop up.

How it works

A developmental edit is a great opportunity to get some much earnt space from your manuscript. Once you've handed over the files, I hole away with a notebook, pen, and blanket to read the whole novel cover to cover. With track changes and comments in MS Word, I will provide close and careful critique in your manuscript to help you with your edits. In the first pass, my queries will focus on the reader's experience of the story as it unfolds. Subsequent passes will close in on writing elements that require improvement. The turnaround is up to eight weeks. We will have agreed on the specifics ahead of time.

While I am reading your manuscript, I will take notes on how the story utilises the key elements of the novel throughout. These will be used to form a detailed report of each component. You will be able to see examples of where you have creative fantastic, immersive settings alongside instances where the setting may be distracting or not suited to the genre. It will include examples of how weaker elements can be 
strengthened and how different techniques for approaching plot, characterisation, perspective and other writing elements have different effects on your readers.

The report will map against the comments throughout your manuscript which will help orientate you to find live instances of each story element that may need rewriting. These comments will clearly explain how it could be interpreted by the reader and how it might be changed to better convey your story. On top of all that, your whole story and all of the worldbuilding will be meticulously tracked in a spreadsheet with notes on what requires editing.

As a fantasy editor, I know how important it is to manage elements of worldbuilding. It is important that potions have the same effect each time they are used (unless there is good reason) and that the details of your backstory agrees with the fact that your wizards live for 3000 years.

All of this will empower you to implement the critique. You won't have to go through the revision process alone.

It was a real surprise for me that I felt super positive after reading your report rather than having a confidence low. You have somehow managed to give lots of useful feedback without ever making me feel negative or criticised in any way. I now feel inspired and emboldened to work on the manuscript again.

Do you need a developmental editor?

1 / You know there's a good story in there

If your plots are getting tangled and your characters are falling flat then your readers won't have a good time. You want the best book possible! A developmental edit will give you the tools you need to free your fantasy novel of inconsistencies and strengthen your writing style. By the end, you will be saying "Yes! That's exactly the story I was trying to tell!"

2 / Revise and Resubmit

Have you been querying for a while? If you know you need to rewrite your manuscript but don't know where to start, developmental editing is for you. Is the story not starting until the reader is four chapters in? Is character conflict not believable or impactful enough? Have you got an excellent plot but not quite a strong enough grasp on your stylistic voice? Let the developmental edit answer all of these questions for you.

3 / You've written a million words

If your manuscript has become unwieldy a developmental editor can help pare down plots and tighten the pace. It can be hard to know what is infodumping and what is juicy insight that will capture any fantasy reader. And if you need to untangle plotlines and shape one hefty manuscript into two flowing and engaging ones, your developmental editor will be right there with you.

What does a developmental edit look at?

Plot is the events that make up the narrative arc of your manuscript. You may have several subplots that contribute to the overarching plot. It is important that your plot is engaging, that it suits your reader's expectations and that it makes sense.

What do you get?

A developmental edit is a whole package to set you up ready for revisions. A substantive edit is an involved process. The developmental report will act not only as your book doctor but your guide to implementing changes and corrections.

Query in manuscript reads "what a great thought!"

Queries in your manuscript

You won't be left to hunt down copy to correct and enhance yourself. Comments in your manuscript will guide you through your edits.

tools on a table. Like the ones you'll need to rewrite. Well not quite.

A spreadsheet

The most thrilling part of editing! Your spreadsheet will track story beats and line up worldbuilding elements. It is a helpful tool for understanding the edit and completing revisions.

developmental edit report

A developmental report

This will be your ultimate guide. Broken down into digestible segments, your report will analyse your writing style, plot and story. These are typically 20 pages but vary depending on the manuscript.

A book shelf. What your reading list will look like after an edit.

A reading list

Reading is the best way to improve your writing. What better way to tackle an element you're struggling with than to read a book that does it really well?


A celebration of your work

Head into your revisions feeling confident and motivated. Your report will include sections analysing the brilliance in your writing so that you can be your own benchmark for success.

A planner.

An action plan

You will receive a personalised plan for revising your manuscript to help you prioritise your rewriting process. This is a one-page easy read!

  • How much will it cost me?
    My rates are based on word count and level of complexity. A quick look at a sample of your writing should give me a good idea of the scope. My base rates are as follows: Manuscript assessment: £0.007 per word Developmental editing: £0.02 per word Line editing: £0.015 per word Copy editing £0.01 per word (plus a 10% discount when booked as part of a bundled service.) Please ask if you need these rates in your local currency. I base my rates on the suggested minimum rates set out by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.
  • How long do I have between the editing stages?
    If you have chosen a bundled service, there will be a gap between editing levels for you to incorporate edits. This is all dependent on you and your schedules but here is an average for how long my authors usually take. Everybody's revision process looks different. Developmental editing and manuscript report: two to three months Line editing: roughly six weeks However, I understand that everyone's schedules are different. We will have a chat about schedules before we get started. This will be your opportunity to shout if you need more or less time. After that, line edits usually take the authors I work with six to eight weeks. Of course, if you get your edits back from me and have had a change in circumstances, just let me know and I can adjust the schedule. I won't be mad if you get the file back early either!
  • Can I book ahead?
    Absolutely! If you're a big forward planner or like a deadline in the diary to work to, feel free to get booked in with me even months in advance. Keep in mind that I will need a deposit from you to secure the spot. It is a win for both of us! As a freelance editor, being able to see all the exciting projects on my horizon fills me with joy and motivation. If you do book ahead of time and there is a change in your circumstances, do let me know as soon as possible so that I can make space for you later on and fill any gaps in my schedule.
  • Do you work with authors outside of the UK?
    Yes, I do! I am freelance editor to all. Well, to all fantasy and science fiction authors. Get in contact for a quote in your local currency. If you are looking for copyediting, please specify the English that you are writing in. I work in US and British English.
  • How long will it take?
    How long the editing process takes depends on what service or bundle you have chosen. Fiction editing can vary greatly depending on your writing skills and what needs edited. Developmental editing and a manuscript assessment takes anywhere from two months and up. This is dependent on the length of the manuscript and the level of complexity. Line editing usually takes between six and eight weeks for me to work through the manuscript. Copyediting usually takes one month. Though again, a longer manuscript will take more time. All this can vary based on how much work the manuscript needs and availability. When you sign your contract we will both be clear on all the details of the scope, including the timeframe. I'm sure you're eager to get through the editing and publishing. Don't you worry, you won't be left twiddling your thumbs wondering when you'll see your work back!
  • Can I get a sample edit?
    For novel length projects, I do offer sample edits. If you send me your full manuscript, I can pick a section at random and give you a taster of how the manuscript report will shape up. I do not offer a sample edit for short stories. Keep in mind that developmental editing concerns the manuscript as a whole. A sample edit on a small section can be limiting in terms of the depth of the advice and analysis I can give. However, it is a useful tool for you to see if you gel with my style of feedback. Line editing samples are usually more representative of the final product.
  • Why do you ask for the full manuscript?
    I ask for the full manuscript for several reasons. The first chapter of so of many manuscripts tend to be the most polished of an authors work. It doesn't give me a representative example of your writing, or you a representative example of the value I can provide for your writing. Often authors, when asked to send a section at random, will tidy up the section they're about to send or will pick their favourite (and best written) bit. I know I'd want to put my best foot forward! But you're hiring me to help sort out your worst foot. Finally, it gives me the opportunity to skim through the manuscript to get an idea of the content. This will give me a bit more context for the sample edit. One editing job is never the same as the next. The edits I give you will be as unique as your manuscript.
  • Do you offer payment plans?
    Once you have picked me as the editor, you will need to send a deposit to secure your slot in my schedule. This deposit is deducted from the project fee. It is not an extra cost. Usually, I work with authors to create a payment plan that works for both of us. Not everybody has the ability to drop big cash on editing all at once and I respect that! I do my best to make editing as accessible to authors as I can.
  • The whole show bundle seems like a lot. Do I need this much editing?
    It depends on your motivations and goals. But the answer is most likely no. Editing is expensive and I've designed the whole show bundle to be intentionally indulgent. There may be a few writers out there that want to invest, both with finance and with time, deeply in their project. If you just need a copyeditor, don't go for this. If you're a career self-publisher or looking to query agents, take a look at the novel bundle!

Contact Me

Get in touch today to find out how your manuscript could benefit from developmental editing.

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