What is Developmental Editing?

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Some of the best writers of all time have needed editorial assistance, and they were smart enough to seek it out.

Let’s say you talk to your editor, publisher, or ghostwriter about your manuscript, and the consensus is that your work would benefit from something more than line editing or copy editing. They recommend developmental editing. What does that mean? At Mark Graham Communications, developmental editing is the most proactive of the levels of editing that we do. With developmental editing, we work on the actual language of the book. We freshen or enhance descriptive passages. We up the action component. We hone dialogue. We modify word usage when necessary. Moreover, we do all of this while respecting the voice you have created. Does this mean sharpening the voice? Sometimes. Does this mean tweaking the tone? Only if it ups the presentation. Developmental editing can be extremely aggressive or no more than a gentle massage. In all cases, the end goal is make your manuscript more appealing to the reader. If it doesn’t accomplish this, then don’t do it. Editing for editing sake is a not only a waste of time, but can end up doing more harm than good.

Okay, you say, but the description we just explored sounds more like content editing than developmental editing. Where does the development come in? At Mark Graham Communications, this is where the communication between you and the editor is so crucial. This is where we talk about the holes in your story – assuming you’ve written a novel or a memoir – or missing pieces in your character development. This is where we talk about the strengths or weaknesses in your message – assuming you’ve written a business book or self-help book – or the redundancies or inaccuracies in your examples or anecdotes. This is where a true collaboration takes root between you and us and a real partnership develops.

Writing most definitely has a solitary component to it. There is, however, a point in time when sharing what we’ve written becomes necessary. Sometimes we need a discerning eye. Sometimes we need an honest appraisal. Sometimes we need a helping hand. Some of the best writers of all time have needed editorial assistance, and they were smart enough to seek it out. It is, I think, a lesson from which we can all benefit.