Editing: Development Editing

How do you know what kind of editor or editorial service you need? Copy-editing? Development editing? Proofreading? How do you know when you’re ready to engage an editor? Good questions! Let’s get stuck into exploring them…


There are two kinds of editing that I am concerned with: development editing and copy-editing. In order to uncover the differences between these types of editing, so you can be best informed about which you may need…and when, let’s look at each type in more detail. In this blog, I tackle development editing. Stay tuned for my blogs about copy-editing and proofreading. To discover more about different editorial stages, read Time to Hire an Editor. Or learn more about Manuscript Assessments.


Development Editing

A Worded Life: Structural Editing

Development editing has several names – it is sometimes called substantive editing or structural editing.

Developmental editors offer suggestions about the goal(s) and aim(s) of your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. At A Worded Life, I examine the organisational aspects of your writing, sometimes moving entire sentences, paragraphs or sections (if needed) in order to improve the flow of your ideas. I investigate the content, design and style of your writing to ensure consistency and coherence. I look the concept(s) present in your writing, the story and character development, the use of dialogue, the sense of place you evoke, the narrative voice, pacing, style and language used.


When to hire a development editor

Development editing can begin before the writing process begins, where the development editor helps brainstorm ideas and makes a clear writing plan. Or development editing can begin once a manuscript is complete.

Knowing when your manuscript is complete can be a tricky thing, and I often find clients contacting me about editing before their manuscript is fully cooked – when they know there are still major issues with the writing, but they have no idea how to resolve these themselves, or when they cannot face another rewrite alone and are losing motivation to finish the work.

Yes, these are great reasons to elicit some assistance, but editing, either development editing or copy-editing, may or may not be the solution you need. In these cases, I often suggest a manuscript assessment to help the author identify the strengths and weaknesses of their manuscript and to suggest ways the author can move forward to further develop their writing.

Sometimes, a period of rewriting support, where I act as a writing mentor, coaching the author through the rewriting process, can be an effective way forward.

Seeing a sample of the manuscript is usually enough to give me a sense of where the writing is at in terms of its development.

Occasionally, a manuscript doesn’t need development editing and we can skip straight to copy-editing… I will let you know if this is the case. I do myself no favours by doing work (or charging you for work) that is not required!


When we are at the development editing stage, I approach it as a collaborative process, working closely with the author/writer. I treat every manuscript as though the author has just handed me their most precious thing…like a baby. Every manuscript feels like an extension of the author themselves in some way, and I am careful to set up the author/editor relationship to be supportive and trusting so it can, ultimately, be a constructive and successful relationship.

Development editing can be a work-heavy stage for both the author and the editor…so be prepared to get stuck back into your manuscript!


A Worded Life offers a range of editorial services including:

  • Writing mentor
  • Manuscript assessment
  • Development/structural editing
  • Copy-editing
  • Proofreading


Discover more about the services offered by A Worded Life.


Contact A Worded Life today.


By | 2017-10-10T02:23:42+00:00 October 10th, 2017|Editing|Comments Off on Editing: Development Editing

About the Author:

Shel Sweeney is a highly qualified writing and editing services provider. Shel has a Master of Arts: Professional Writing and is the published author of short stories, essays and poetry.