A Comprehensive Guide to Self-Editing: The Importance of The Developmental Edit

A Comprehensive Guide to Self-Editing: The Importance of The Developmental Edit

You've heard the famous quote by Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo...

Michelangelo, an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance was asked how he carved the statue of David. He answered: 

"It's simple. I just remove everything that is NOT David.

That's a brilliant way of saying, "You, know, I chipped away at a huge block of stone until the only thing left was the vision I began with." That block of cold, hard, rough stone is what we authors call 'the first draft.' And somewhere in that stone is your voice, your vision, and your unique story.

But what the freak is Developmental Editing?

Well,… that's exactly what developmental editing is,--- a freak. It's the Frankenstein's monster of editing. It encompasses some elements of copy, line editing, and substantive editing while remaining its own thing entirely. At its core, developmental editing is the architect of storytelling. It delves into the structural foundations of a manuscript, shaping plotlines, characters, and settings to create a narrative that not only enthralls but lingers in the hearts of readers. It goes beyond the realms of grammar and syntax, focusing on the holistic development of the manuscript. Developmental editing is where we look at everything and decide whether the moving parts work or not in creating engaging and smooth experiences for the reader.

What's the difference between developmental Editing vs. other editing types

    Developmentally editing might look at sentence structure, voice, flow, word usage, style, and the like but do NOT confuse this process with copy, proof, or line editing!

    Distinguishing developmental editing from its counterparts is crucial! Unlike copy editing or proofreading, which primarily addresses surface-level issues, developmental editing is concerned with the substantive aspects of a manuscript. It peers into the soul of the story, ensuring a robust foundation that goes beyond the cosmetic. 

    You will need different types of editing, but you must know the difference between these types to sequence through them correctly. Developmental editing is the best place to start in your self-editing journey. We are talking about huge, drastic, big-picture changes when we developmentally edit. We don't want to plant pretty words and metaphors just to mow them down right after!

    Why should you bother with developmentally editing your manuscript? 

    No one wants to line edit their first draft (which normally takes weeks if not months!) only to realize their story is missing a crucial plot point, or that laxed character development ditched their main protagonist on Mary Sue Ave. Or---- what if after all that painstaking work of nailing your style and pacing, you find an entire chapter needs rewriting? 

    Do yourself a solid. Don't skip the Dev!

    Developmental editing is here to save you from manuscript disorganization. Taking full stock of your overall manuscript saves you as much time in editing as an intricate outline saves in drafting. 

    Not only does taking your time to edit thoroughly save you time and stress, but it also fosters a deeper connection with your story. As you immerse completely in your draft, you'll be getting a firsthand look at what your readers are getting. And we all know how essential it is to see our stories from the perspective of our readers!

    What Developmental Editing actually does to your draft.

    The heart of storytelling lies in its ability to resonate with readers. Developmental editing enhances this resonance by refining plot intricacies, deepening character arcs, and enriching settings. It is the alchemy that transforms a good manuscript into an exceptional one, making the narrative not just readable but truly unforgettable!

    Without it, the reader's experience will be one of frustration, difficulty, and displeasure. Trust me on this! Developmental editing is where you learn whether your character is likable, whether your villains are truly scary, and whether your themes weave deeply enough into your narrative to mean something! Don’t ever—ever skip developmental editing!

    Picture it like this: Drafting is like assembling one of those conglomerations doodads with all the pulleys in dominoes... you know---- a Rube Goldberg, like the ones we saw in those early 90’s sitcoms? And developmental editing is like triggering the first domino to make sure it actually will launch a pie in your siblings face. Developmental editing is where you make sure your story "works."

    And there we go.

    Catch up to our next entry in the Self-editing series where we will learn how to get started editing your manuscript DIY style. Until then, reflect on your manuscript, envision the narrative you aspire to share, and recognize the potential of developmental editing in bringing that vision to fruition.

    Additional Resources

    For those eager to delve deeper into the intricacies of developmental editing, I offer additional resources. These articles were really helpful when I was researching developmental editing for the purposes of writing this blog!

    Explore the links and references provided, and consider recommended reading to embark on a comprehensive exploration of this vital aspect of the writing process.

    How to do a developmental edit yourself (and save lots of money on editing in the process)

    Be Your Own Developmental Editor: A Step-by-Step Guide to Elevating Your Story

    In embracing the importance of developmental editing, authors not only refine their manuscripts but also elevate their storytelling craft. It is a journey marked by transformation, where words cease to be mere expressions and instead become vessels for stories that linger, resonate, and endure.