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Part One: Developmental Editing
Once you've written “The End" on your book, the next step is to find a publisher, right? Not quite, although you're on the right track. Whether that publisher is you as a self-publishing author or a traditional publisher, before you start sending out queries and manuscripts or loading your book onto Amazon, you should first hire an editor.
What for? Your story works for you, right? Maybe you even had beta readers who loved your story. So, what good is an editor?
The first step in understanding why you need an editor is to talk about what an editor is and how they can help you be a successful writer.
There are multiple layers of editing that a book will go through before it's published. If you want your story to be polished, marketable, and compelling, then it deserves an editor’s attention, unbiased eye, and dedication. After all, you're putting your “baby” out into the world—whether that's to readers right away or to agents and publishers—so it should be at its best, right?
The first layer of editing is developmental editing. This is the stage where the editor will critically read your manuscript for big-picture and organization issues. Those include:
plot (and plot holes!)
scenes and sequels
chapter order and breaks
suspense and tension
market and genre awareness
In essence, a developmental editor will address everything that makes your story a story, and everything that makes it readable, enjoyable, marketable, and compelling. They’re also going to look for and give you feedback on the "high-concept" level of your book, which is your story’s uniqueness, originality, and appeal to your audience. For example, romance readers are going to expect certain things in that genre—like a happy ending—so if you've written a love story that doesn't end happily, it’s possible you’re not writing romance. Developmental editors can help you pin down the genre you're writing and marketing to.
The difference between a developmental editor and a beta reader is that while a beta reader is typically an unpaid test reader of an unreleased writing or work of literature, a developmental editor is (or should be—We’ll talk about what you should look for in an editor in a later post.) an industry-trained, unbiased professional whose job is to become as invested in your story as you are and bring it up to a marketable, professional level.
So if you've just finished that manuscript, give yourself a huge pat on the back—after all, you've written a book, and that's no small feat! But now, care for your story by giving it the time and attention it needs to become a highly polished work that will keep readers turning the pages.
Lindsay Flanagan is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in developmental editing. She runs her own writing, editing, and photography business, Elle&A, and also edits for the award-winning Eschler Editing firm and for Immortal Works Publishing.
*The opinions expressed in this blog are of value and importance, yet do not serve to represent any and/or all opinions of TLM Language Services Co., nor necessarily the employees/affiliates of TLM Language Services Co.