Developmental Editing

In the lifecycle of your manuscript, content editing is relevant from the earliest stages of development, which is why it is also referred to as developmental editing. In fact, developmental editing is one of the most crucial steps in shaping your book, be it nonfiction, educational materials, a novel, a journal article, a memoir. Even before you’ve got a solid draft together, you can benefit from the constructive feedback that characterizes a content revision.

Whereas later stages of development may be solely concerned with fine tuning the small details of your manuscript (e.g., individual word choices, grammar, spelling, punctuation), the goal of developmental editing is to understand whether the content, structure, and organization of your manuscript are serving your intentions. Your editor will help you identify elements that are working well at fostering interest and engaging your reader as well as those that may be missing, flawed, or working against you.

What to Expect: Developmental or Content Editing

The broad questions undergirding this type of revision will explore whether the text is readable and interesting and if there are aspects that can be strengthened to make it more engaging or clearer in purpose and direction. Is the tone and content suitable for its intended audience? If not, what adjustments can be made to make it a better fit? Are you connecting with your readers? Will they care enough to keep reading?

The specific elements that your editor will examine depend largely on genre as conventions and audience expectations vary.

Content Editing for Fiction

In fiction, content editing is an assessment of characterization, plot, narrative pacing, point of view, and dialogue. The feedback you receive will help you view your characters and plot with a bit of distance. How do others respond to the the protagonists and their circumstances? Does the narrative excite your reader or is does it lack tension and intrigue? Is the pace appropriate for the length of the story and the maturity of your audience? Is the dialogue clever and surprising, or is it predictable, flat, and full of cliché?

Developmental Editing for Nonfiction

In nonfiction, your concerns include organization, credibility, authority of voice, argument validity, clarity of expression, accessibility, and precision. The revised manuscript may highlight arguments that are weak or confusing, discussions that may need to be removed or added, and ideas that merit further exploration or explanation. Is it clear why you have included certain information? Should you define certain terms or concepts, or should you assume familiarity? Is the underlying goal of the text at large (and constituent discussions) evident to the reader?

External resources on developmental/content editing:

How much does developmental editing cost?

Prices generally range from $0.015-$0.03/word. Logically, short-form prose generally falls on the higher end of the scale, long-form prose on the lower.