How a Developmental Editor Improves a Book Manuscript

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How a Developmental Editor Improves a Book Manuscript

developmental editor

A developmental editor is one of the best tools in the writer’s arsenal for creating a good book. Whether you are self-publishing or going through a traditional publisher, your book will be stronger and more focused if you work with a developmental editor to improve it to the point of marketability.

What that means for the writer is that you’ll develop a partnership with your editor that makes your book stronger and more marketable, and it makes you a better author. In fact, if you view your editor as a partner rather than an adversary, you’ll grow into a stronger writer. Writers who listen closely to what their editors saying and listen to the editor’s advice on improving the manuscript emerge as stronger writers and improve their manuscripts with each successive book they write.

That doesn’t mean the editor is always right. However, developmental editors base their judgments on years of experience while working with a wide variety of different authors and a deep understanding of the market.


4 Ways a Development Editor Improves a Book Manuscript

Developmental editors focus on improving book manuscripts in four different ways.

  1. Structure – One of the primary ways a developmental editor can improve a book manuscript is by focusing on the structure of the book. In nonfiction, that means taking a deep look at the table of the contents, the order of the chapters, and the presentation of the information in each chapter. Is there a logical progression of the content? Is it easy to follow for the reader? These are some of the concerns the developmental editor has with regard to manuscript structure.
  2. Content focus – Another area of presentation the developmental editor often focuses on is in the presentation of the content. Is it focused or is the writing all over the place? The developmental editor will help you improve your manuscript by suggesting ways to focus on the content in a particular direction based on where the market demand for your book is and what reader interest within the market is. In other words, the manuscript’s content must address the questions that abound in the marketplace, but it should also answer the variety of questions that readers interested in such a book might have regarding the topic. Your developmental editor will assist you in focusing the content to address those questions.
  3. Tone inconsistency – One way authors often fall short is in tone. Book-length manuscripts are usually written at different periods of time. An author may write the first chapter on one day, the second chapter two weeks later, and subsequent chapters at intermittent intervals over a period of weeks or months. Depending on the author’s mood or state of mind at those various times, there could be an inconsistency in tone from one chapter to the next. Your developmental editor will help you smooth out transitions and maintain a consistency in tone throughout your manuscript.
  4. Clearly defined audience – The reason developmental editors specialize in a particular genre is because they are familiar with the audience and the market within that genre. This is valuable experience for the writer. If you do not have a clearly defined audience for your manuscript, it will show in your manuscript. Quite often, when writers have not defined their audience well enough, it will show up with some or all of the above symptoms. The structure of the manuscript will be out of whack, there will be an inconsistency in tone, and the content will not be focused on any particular segment of the market. Your developmental editor will help you fix each of these issues by helping you first define your audience then directing your energies to repairing the broken parts of your manuscript.

It can be challenging working with a developmental editor, but it is a necessary part of the writing process. I recommend it for all authors even if you plan to work with a ghostwriter.