Development editing

In this latest post on editing, I thought we could take a look at development editing. A development edit does what it says on the tin. It helps the author develop their book in right way. A novel is a complex system and there’s a lot to get right.

Let’s have a look at some of the areas a development edit covers.

Hooking your reader.
If you’re a new author you have no track record. That means you have to give your reader a reason on page one, paragraph one, to read your book. Too much backstory or preliminary world-building before anything really happens will have your potential reader putting your book back on the shelf or closing the Amazon ‘look inside’ window. Or, worse still, sending you a rejection letter.

Does the central thread of the narrative carry your reader through from the initial inciting incident to a satisying conclusion? Is your plot sufficiently engaging to make the reader want to continue reading? Does it present the central characters with the kind of challenges that are going to leave them changed by the end of the book?

Are your characters believable and well-drawn? Will your reader want to know what happens to them? Have you given them a satisfying arc as they pursue their goal?


Does the action move at an appropriate rate, with some highs and lows where the reader’s breath is held, then caught? Is there a danger that the pace hits the doldrums and turns soggy at any point? Is the end rushed or too long delayed?

Do your characters speak in a realistic way? Do they sound sufficiently different from each other? Is the language they use appropriate for your plot’s setting? Do your characters avoid the cardinal sin of exposition?

Point of view.
Have you identified the best point of view from which to tell your story? Is it well-handled or are there multiple, confusing, changes of point of view? Does the point of view enhance character development and plot pace?

Does the book flow seamlessly or is it ‘choppy’ with abrupt changes of pace or scene which aren’t right for the narrative? Are there frequent digressions or too much description? Is there too much telling and not enough showing?

Have you, as the writer, understood that theme is different from plot? Have you developed the underlying theme/s in a satisfying way that enhances plot and character development? Is the theme one which is going to resonate with the book’s target audience?

Of course, inevitably, this list is incomplete, but get those things right and you’re off to a flying start. Over the coming weeks we’ll be looking at each of those areas in a little more depth to help you think about what you’re writing – or, indeed, reading!

Meanwhile, if you’d be interested in discussing whether you might benefit from working with a development editor, do get in touch with me via Facebook Messenger or the contact page on my website. Working with an editor demands an ability to communicate easily, so I offer a free 30-minute Zoom consultation so that you can get an idea of whether I’d be the right person to work with you.

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