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LESLEY CAPITANCHIK, AUTHOR AND PLAYWRIGHT

Alison is a perceptive and supportive editor who asks thought-provoking questions that encourages you to reflect on your writing and develop it. Her feedback enabled me to develop a short piece of writing into a full-length ensemble audio-drama. Alison’s advice enabled me to improve the characterisation, setting and expression, and I will always be grateful for her input.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING: FICTION

Taking a step back: crafting the whole

Developmental editing, also called ‘big picture’ editing, deals with any editing issues that you can see in the book as a whole. If you think of what you see when you envisage the book as a completed manuscript, that will be what a developmental edit engages with. Examples are the shape of the plot, the characters’ stories, and what the narrator’s voice (or voices) sound like.

A developmental editor may suggest that the author make extensive, chapter- and story-level changes: moving, deleting, and rewriting whole passages – or even whole chapters. The editor could even suggest that the premise on which the book is written needs tweaking or adjusting.

This could be called ‘big bump’ editing. It is about identifying the big issues that need to be fixed before the work can continue along the editing process: a kind of smoothing over before the fine sanding and polishing of line and copy-editing. 

To see if I work in your genre, please check here.

 
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QUESTIONS AN EDITOR MIGHT ASK OF THE MANUSCRIPT

 

Is this a good idea for a story?

Do the plot and structure create a good foundation? Do things happen regularly enough and with the right amount of tension? Do the subplots work?

Is there forward motion through conflicts or adequately challenging obstacles?

Do the characters engage the reader? Are they believable? Do their motivations make sense and are they strong enough?

Do the characters engage the reader? Are they believable? Do their motivations make sense and are they strong enough?

Is there a good amount of tension? And some downtime too?

Does the opening chapter engage? Does the closing chapter satisfy?

How well are certain narrative techniques used? For example, are there enough scenes, is the dialogue well placed, and is the voice consistent?

Does the writer have certain language ticks (words or techniques they love and use a bit too regularly) that end up being distracting for the reader?

DO YOU NEED A DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT?

The following offers some guidelines to see if it is needed.

  • You might feel that there are problems with plot or character, or any of the other ‘big picture’ issues, but not know if you are right or how to fix them.

  • You may have shared it with either a writing group or a beta reader and the feedback has been negative, contradictory, or not specific enough for you to deal with.

  • You may be a first-time author who has not really studied fiction writing craft.

  • You want to study fiction, but you prefer to do so using your own work, rather than generic books or courses.

  • You want to make sure that the foundations of your story are stable before you spend time agonising over getting the words exactly right.  

 

TWO DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING SERVICES

The developmental editing services I offer are full developmental edit and manuscript critique. The difference between them is how much depth each goes into, the time each takes, the cost, and what you receive.

FULL DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT

Editorial report
Fully marked-up manuscript
Book map
Post-editing support

MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE

Editorial report
Book map
Post-editing support

 

EDITORIAL REPORT

A detailed report of between 10 to 15 pages which looks at your manuscript under headings such as structure, theme, story and character development and point of view. It identifies and analyses problems and suggests possible solutions. Also included are lists of characters and settings with notes of their attributes and an assessment of what the manuscript may need after the suggested revisions are made.

FULLY MARKED-UP MANUSCRIPT

 Using Microsoft Word’s track changes and comments functions, page edits are made which pinpoint in the manuscript areas highlighted in the editorial report. For example, if too much description is affecting the pace, where this happens will be pointed out and possible solutions offered. This helps to guide the writer in putting into practice the suggestions made in the editorial report.

BOOK MAP

This is a table showing an analysis of the book, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. It is a brilliant aid both for the writer and the editor in working out the overall shape of the novel and as a tool to help them find and fix any issues. It is also incredibly helpful in the rewriting process, especially if substantial parts of the novel need to be moved. What exactly will you be moving if you decide to move all of chapter 6 over to part three? The book map will tell you!

POST-EDITING SUPPORT

After receiving your feedback, you may want to know more about a certain issue, or you may want further clarification on a suggested revision. Included in your package is either a one-hour meeting on a video or phone call, or for me to answer one email detailing whatever questions you have.

 

WHICH DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT IS FOR YOU

We will discuss which is the best for your manuscript, but as a guide, the following may give you an idea of which is most suitable.

FULL DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT

 A full developmental edit might be best if you:

  • Know very little about the craft of writing

  • Would like to know in detail about where the issues are in your manuscript and how improvements can be made 

  • Are happy to spend more to get the increased attention on the manuscript

MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE

A manuscript critique might be best if you:

  • Know a fair amount about the craft of writing

  • Just need an overview of what might be going wrong

  • Like to work out your own solutions to issues in your manuscript

  • Are on a tight budget

 

VARIATIONS ON THE MAIN SERVICE.

Developmental editing is not just for novels. The following can also be treated with developmental analysis.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITS FOR SHORT STORIES

 Like a novel, a short story can be looked at in terms of story structure and character. This edit will include a short report as well as a marked-up manuscript.

PARTIAL DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT

Maybe you only want one aspect of your novel examined, for example you may have had negative feedback on your plot. I can examine your manuscript focusing got only that aspect at a lower price than a full developmental edit or manuscript critique.

 

WHAT NEXT?

For all the practical aspects, such as costs and timescales, and to be taken through the process of hiring me as a fiction editor, please see The Practicals.