Writing Journey

What (The Heck) Is Developmental Editing?

“What does developmental editing entail?”

Perhaps you’ve once asked this question. If not, you’re now probably wondering what it is. So to answer, allow me to share my most recent experience with you.

First and foremost, I’m certain dev editing varies from book to book. However, the approach taken by a dev editor is the same. And from the perspective of The Slave Prince, I’m sure you’ll grasps its function. Let’s get to it!

My dev editor goes by the name of Matt. Matt took two weeks to read my manuscript. After which, he sent me a developmental letter alongside comments on my manuscript. The comments were secondary to the letter, but both addressed key issues in my book. What were they?

#1 Descriptions

Matt told me my novel was sorely lacking in descriptions. And here I thought, I did a pretty decent job! I was wrong. Before my latest rewrite, I failed to picture the named ships. I fell short on the kingdom and palace layouts. I also didn’t establish racial differences, facial features, and physical changes over a 3-year time jump, for my characters. With dev editing, this issue was brought to light. And out of the 6000 words of new material, a chunk went to descriptions.

#2 Characters

When it came to the characters, Matt said their needs and wants weren’t clearly established. I had to reevaluate my protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters. I needed to make it clear in writing – establishing their former desires and the changes that occur. And through this process, I made a major shift in my protagonist’s behaviour. Clear on his goals, he’s now more human than before.

#3 Plot

Matt asserted that one of the key subplots in the book made my protagonist unlikeable. He then suggested an alternative, saving Thom from the hate he would possibly receive from readers. As I struggled with this particular subplot in my earlier edits – somehow knowing it would ruin the book – I’m grateful Matt saw a way to change it without altering it completely. What I once couldn’t resolve, has now found a resolution – what a relief!

#4 Magic

Talk about cliche, Matt stated that the appearance of magic in The Slave Prince was over done. The white tree in a snowy cave reminded him of A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings. He advised me to change the entire scene. And, after much re-imagining, I did. The white tree, rooted in snow, no longer exists in the book – a new, more awesome scene, has taken its place. But don’t worry, this post contains #nospoilers.

#5 Language

Both in dialogue and prose, Matt pointed out that the language I used was sometimes anachronistic. To align the writing to a medieval setting, I was told to remove modern day phrases and words. Idioms such as ‘throwing in the towel’ and words like ‘awkward’ didn’t belong. And so backspaced I went… on all of them.

So, what does developmental editing entail?

I hope these five points helped you understand the fundamentals. Of course, what you’ve just read is merely surface level – what I can share without spoiling the story. There was more in Matt’s dev letter, including additional suggestions on how to add value to the book. And aside from his comments, Matt also worked with me on a rewrite outline to address the present issues. It’s safe to say, developmental editing made The Slave Prince a denser book – it helped build three-dimensional characters, and establish a richer and fuller world.

The next question you’d probably ask is if developmental editing is worth undergoing. Well, if you have a publisher, it’s usually a part of the publishing deal. If you don’t, and are on a tight budget, candid beta readers can sometimes act as dev editors. But if you have the funds, getting a professional dev editor is advisable. You might need to spend 56 hours rewriting – like I did – but you’ll end up with a better book.

Do note, that approaching any form of editing requires a realisation that editors exist to help you. You may be offended by their claims – it’s normal, your book is your baby – but know that their honesty will make it better. And hey, if you don’t like their suggestions, it’s fine! You don’t have to incorporate their ideas – dev editors cannot force you to do anything. But sleeping on their words will definitely help. After all, it’s their job to see things you cannot see and work toward fixing them.

With all that said, I’m excited for my next stage of editing. Matt is currently reading my rewrite. And if he thinks I’ve tackled the issues well, The Slave Prince will enter copy editing! Having gone through copy editing before, with The Battle for Oz, I know what to expect. One can only hope I’ve improved in skill that will result in a swift pass.

Now, to plug my book! If this post has piqued your curiosity, click HERE to learn more about The Slave Prince. Then, consider joining over 300 other readers as they become the first to receive the book before it hits the shelves! That would make you so very cool… in my starry dreamer eyes.