Developmental editing might be a scary thought for many writers. It’s the type of editing where a great many changes are suggested, and the red marks on the manuscript could look terrifying. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your novel, and now you are handing it over to someone who might tear it apart. Have I scared you even more? Here are five reasons to set aside your fears and embrace this type of service.
1. Developmental editors see things you can’t see
When we write, especially when we are passionately writing (which most writers do, right?), we tend to not notice things that could trip up a reader. This is not about grammar errors or punctuation issues—that’s the copyeditor’s job—but rather it is about plot lines, character development, scene flow, and how it all fits together. Story arcs make sense to those who write them, and we may think “How can anyone NOT follow this?” But your readers may struggle with plot holes you don’t see. They may not connect with your characters that seem so real to you. It is important to have someone point these items out to you and suggest how to fix them, especially if you are self-publishing. The last thing you need are negative reviews to drag you down.
2. Developmental editing can save you from potential heartache
Published authors, whether self-published or by traditional publishers, know the importance of online reviews. The more reviews received, the higher your book ranks, and the higher the chances of getting sales. But even if you get tons of reviews that bring you to that featured status due to algorithms that only look at numbers, those looking to buy your book are going to actually read those reviews, especially the negative ones. Those reviews are there to stay, and I have seen writers suffer from such reviews because they chose to self-publish without consulting an editor. Making sure your story is truly the best it can be is worth the cost to minimize negative feedback and encourage the positive.
3. Editors are objective
Writers may be worried that they will be judged by others, particularly when someone like an editor is analyzing their story so deeply. Editors are human and may naturally have their personal opinions, but a good editor will keep their opinions to themselves and focus on you and your work. Any opinions conveyed should be from the standpoint of an objective reader and not from what the editor thinks it should be. After all, the story is yours, it came from your heart. But getting objective feedback and suggestions are crucial to making sure that what you have works for readers, and editors are trained to do exactly that—objectively.
4. Red marks are not set in stone
All those red lines and comments in your manuscript are suggestions and only suggestions. You can reject all of it if you want. But before you click that “Reject all” button, read the comments carefully, over and over and over. Put the manuscript aside for a few days, then come back and read them again. I guarantee you will be surprised at how helpful those comments are. If your editor has suggested that a scene should be moved elsewhere, try it and see how it turns out. If they say a character is not well developed, that they didn’t connect with them, do some character development exercises to give them a boost. And if the editor suggests clarifying something that you think makes perfect sense, remember that your readers are not in your head and need more help than you might think.
5. Developmental editors are advocates for your readers
All of these points tie in to one important fact: developmental editors are the best advocates for readers. Though beta readers and manuscript evaluators can provide valuable feedback for low cost or even for free, they often do not give you detailed suggestions on what needs work or point out specific bits that work well and how to best utilize them. A beta reader might say, “This scene was confusing,” but say nothing more, whereas a developmental editor will explain in detail why it is confusing and use their expertise to suggest ways to make it better. A manuscript evaluator might say, “Your characters are wonderfully developed, and I connected closely with them,” but a developmental editor would tell you why they are great and how to use your skills to improve other parts of the story.
If you’re still nervous about investing in a developmental edit, whether it’s because you’re worried about how many red marks you’re going to see or because the cost doesn’t fit your budget, a professional manuscript evaluation is the next best option. You won’t get the detailed advice that a developmental editor would provide, but you can get a professional reader-advocate to tell you where your story is and where it needs to go.