Developmental Editing

January 7, 2021 by Evan Braun


For more than a decade, my editing focus at Word Alive Press has largely been on giving authors that final polish their manuscripts need to get ready for print. This continues to be my bread and butter, helping an author elevate their writing to that high level so that it can be unveiled for all the world to see—and enjoy.

But throughout 2020, Word Alive Press has pulled back the curtain on a whole suite of other editing services. After all, no two manuscripts—no two authors—have quite the same needs. Our goal is to meet you as a writer wherever you are in the process and help get you to the finish line.

And for some writing projects, the manuscript simply isn’t yet ready for that final polish.

Perhaps your struggle as a writer is that you need some help traversing your way through the process of first-drafting your book. If that’s where you are, then earlier this summer we came up with the Spark Mentorship Program, which is designed to help you finish writing your first draft.

Yet there are a large number of writers who have already gotten through their first draft, but they sense the manuscript still isn’t ready to see the light of day. Maybe the characters aren’t quite gelling yet, or the plot has some holes that need filling in, or perhaps there’s some difficult subject matter that they need some advice navigating through.

If that describes where you’re at right now in your writing journey, then you might be able to benefit from a developmental edit.

When you hear the word editing, a particular image probably comes to mind—a manuscript page full of corrections. Crossed-out lines, words replaced, typos addressed, punctuation corrected, etc. In editing vernacular, we call those “line edits.” Line edits are when the editor dives into the mechanics of writing, all these nitty-gritty details, with the goal of producing a clean and sparkling final draft.

But with a developmental edit, there are no line edits. Instead, the editor pays special attention to the underlying story—the characterization, the dialogue, the plot, the structure—with an eye towards asking, “Does this work well? And if not, how could it be rewritten/reimagined to work better?” The goal is to give the author all the tools they need to go from a rough first draft to a coherent second draft.

Once you’ve got that coherent second draft, where all the underlying elements of the story are finally firing on all cylinders, then you can occupy yourself with line edits and getting ready to go to press.

If you feel you’re in that in-between stage where you’ve got a first draft that needs work, but you don’t know exactly what that work is and need an expert’s advice on figuring it out, then a developmental edit might be for you.

A developmental edit could be the next step you’re looking for to keep you moving forward to your publishing dream.

About this Contributor

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Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.