Woo hoo! You’ve written what could only be a masterpiece in the eyes of the world to solve humanity’s problems, either through witty entertainment or well-researched strategy. Just one problem…you’re the only one who’s read it so far! Now for the first time, you have to let someone else—besides family and friends—look at it. And not just for diversion, but for dissection.
Welcome to developmental editing! More than one type of editing, you ask? Oh yeah, lots more, but we’ll just discuss the biggies. The dev edit (time to become fluent in publishing lingo!) is focused more on overall structure, how parts and chapters are organized, how well major topics follow from each other, and the appropriateness of your tone, format, and research to your subject matter. It’s often your editor’s first crack at your book, and when you get it back, it’s your first crack at swallowing your pride, biting your tongue, and reminding yourself that you paid someone who doesn’t have any reason to soften the blow to give you honest, expert advice.
OK, it wasn’t really that bad, I enjoyed working with my editor Mike tremendously, and I had complete control over the editing decisions made (which is not always the case, depending on the publisher). However, since early in the game is the time to make sweeping structural changes and yes, remove a lot of fat, it did seem a little like watching my baby get an amputation that I wasn’t quite sure was necessary. What used to be Part 3 got axed (called “More Than Meets the Eye,” a moment of silence please), and the middle of the book was transplanted to the beginning instead. Stuff I thought was pretty sweet got relegated to the “Notes” section, and there was a small period of grieving. But then, I read the healed Healing Hereafter, and yeah, it was much better and made more sense. The dev edit is all about negotiating with your editor to fight for the heart and soul of your project while letting him or her fight for best communicating that heart and soul to your audience in a way that accomplishes your goals. And…it’s also all about learning what you still have yet to do, but that’s for another post!