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  • Derya Dinç

Developmental Editing

All writers, especially aspiring authors who are in the process of completing their first book, may find themselves questioning whether their stories are good enough to be published after spending months pouring their thoughts onto paper. Some writers, upon reading their finished manuscript, might compare it to other works in the market and feel their writing style isn't strong enough, leading to feelings of discouragement. Alternatively, after facing rejection from multiple publishers, they might contemplate giving up on their dreams of becoming an author.



The developmental editing process is utilized to assist writers who have completed their texts but feel that their work isn't up to par. A developmental editor must understand the writer's vision and the type of work they intend to produce just as well as the writer does, if not better. Subsequently, the developmental editor reviews the writer's work, often multiple times, in order to provide a thorough analysis. Through this assessment, they identify common errors, areas in need of improvement, and key elements that can make the work stronger if emphasized.


The goal of developmental editing is not to correct grammar and punctuation errors within the book but rather to strengthen the content as a whole.

Depending on the genre of the work, a developmental editor examines a range of different aspects. In fiction, they analyze the plot structure, pacing, character development, consistency within the book, descriptions, and potentially controversial content that may evoke negative reactions from readers. For non-fiction works, in addition to these aspects, they also ensure the accuracy and consistency of the provided information and correct citation of sources. In other types of works, elements such as table of contents, graphics, examples, quotes and references, footnotes, index, dedications, the sequencing of chapters, the placement of paragraphs, and their coherence with one another are all carefully considered. If weaknesses are identified in the text, they are reinforced with necessary research and examples. The developmental editor may also eliminate or soften parts of the work that might prevent its publication or provoke reactions.


The scope of the developmental editor's work on the manuscript is determined by the writer prior to commencement. In this process, the editor's work can be divided into two main parts. First, the editor reads and examines the work, conveying all issues and recommendations to the writer. Following this stage, the extent of freedom the developmental editor will have over the text is determined by the writer. Some writers may limit this freedom, while others might grant the developmental editor complete autonomy to work on the text as they see fit.



At this juncture, a significant distinction arises between developmental editing and writer coaching. Writer coaching is entirely focused on the writer. It works within the boundaries set by the writer for the universe they have created, ensuring that the coach's guidance remains faithful to the writer's vision. The improvements proposed by a writer coach are a result of brainstorming sessions and are executed in a way that enables the writer to reach those conclusions independently. The suggestions aim to inspire the writer and facilitate a more efficient writing process, focusing on offering fresh perspectives that the writer may have overlooked. In essence, writer coaching always prioritizes the writer, and the writing process remains entirely driven by the writer.


In the realm of developmental editing, the work itself takes precedence. The goal of the developmental editor is to transform the work into its strongest possible version, enhancing its chances of being published and potentially making it a bestseller. While the writer retains control over much of the process in writer coaching, the editorial leadership takes center stage in the developmental editing process. Therefore, when engaging in developmental editing, it's more beneficial to select an experienced editor with a background in your specific genre who has worked on similar works and is well-versed in the category.


Although the editor takes a leadership role during developmental editing, it's important to remember that the work belongs to the writer. While the editor's focus may lie on the text, substantial changes that alter the writer's vision or the world they've created can only be made with the writer's consent. As demonstrated in the example below, in addition to enriching the text, the developmental editor also ensures the implementation of crucial writing principles, such as "show, don't tell."



Original Text:

Kerem entered the house. He looked thoughtful and tired in the darkness. He headed towards the bedroom, appearing sleepy. He didn't even have the energy to change. He threw himself onto the bed with his clothes still on. In just a few minutes, he had fallen asleep. He didn't even notice when a man entered the house through the unlocked door. Kerem didn't catch a glimpse of it even during his deep sleep.


Revised Text:

Kerem trudged into the house, his steps heavy. Without wasting any time to turn on the lights, he made his way with a distracted demeanor to the small bedroom adjacent to the living room. Illuminated dimly by the distant streetlights, the cramped apartment held only essential furnishings. The sound of traffic from the ceaseless flow of cars outside permeated through the open window. Without bothering to change out of his clothes, Kerem slumped onto the bed. The weariness of the long day swiftly lured him into a deep sleep, oblivious to the fact that he had forgotten to lock the street-facing door, allowing a shadowy figure to silently infiltrate the room.

In the revised text, the "show, don't tell" principle is applied, providing descriptive elements that allow readers to visualize the scene. Additionally, dramatic language is used to create anticipation and expectation in the reader, enhancing the overall engagement of the passage.


This example, of course, represents only a small fraction of the work that developmental editors perform. A developmental editor is a professional who takes a manuscript from its initial draft to a publishable book, fortifying the narrative and unearthing its full potential. Through their expertise, the writer's intended story emerges as more lucid, vivid, and compelling.

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