Developmental Editing: Necessary or Not Needed?

On Janet Reid’s blog, she weighed in on whether or not you needed a developmental edit of your manuscript prior to submitting a query to an agent. She and the commenters agreed that you do NOT need a developmental edit prior to querying.

Their feeling is that you can get your manuscript query-ready if you have good critique partners and beta readers. And I tend to agree with that.

That said, I have used a developmental editor for every manuscript I have ever queried. I realize I am lucky because I can afford developmental edits, which are not usually cheap.

For me, that edit is a very specific part of my writing process. My original writing process was honed with a writing partner who has since passed away. I am therefore very collaborative in my process. I do have critique partners who are the first to dig into the manuscript—usually after about the 3rd draft. Once I incorporate their feedback, I go through several more drafts.

Once I reach the point where I feel I cannot edit any better, when I have reached that point where I have lost objectivity, that’s when I go to my developmental editor. She gives me an in-depth edit of my full manuscript, showing me places I need to improve. The particular developmental editor I work with has an extraordinary feel for and understanding of character and emotion in the story, and that is precisely the area I want to focus on when I send things to her.

While I cannot claim these edits have given me a leg up in querying (I am still not represented), I can say I have learned a great deal from each one. Every manuscript has come back with fewer and fewer edits needed. Not only have the edits made each individual manuscript better, but they have collectively raised my craft level.

So while I agree that in most cases a developmental edit is not necessary prior to querying, for me the money has been worth it.

Do you use a developmental editor at any point in your process?

Developmental Edits: Complete!

I’m on vacation this week, but I wanted to update on how my editing on my current WIP is going. When you last tuned in, I had gotten back my developmental edits from fabulous developmental editor Kathryn Craft. After a few hours of despair (“I can’t do this, it’s too hard!”) I buckled down to it and found that it was not as hard as I thought. In fact, it was a challenge that I ended up enjoying!

Put succinctly, my main problem was that some of my scenes were out of focus, not keeping the main underlying idea front and center. Luckily, I was able to keep most of my scenes and just refocus them (explained in more detail in this blog post). I only wrote 2 completely new scenes and a half of another one. The rest were all repurposed with judicious trimming and adding of content. The edits Kathryn suggested helped a great deal–the story really came together.

Working hard, I managed to finish all those edits BEFORE I left for vacation. I’m going to let it sit until I get back, then go through a final polish/tighten edit. With all the cutting, pasting, and adding of words, I only added a new 513 words, but I would like to trim the whole thing down by about 1,000 words to get it to my ideal word count. Shouldn’t be too hard!

Then (drum roll, please!) I start the query process and see if this manuscript has legs!

Enjoy the end of summer, everyone – I am!

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