FAQ #2: Do you offer sample edits?

1024 683 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

The short answer: not exactly!

Sample edits are a great way for editors, particularly copyeditors, to show you their approach and way of working before you make a decision to hire them. They might offer to work on a few pages or a chapter and send it back to you to read through, and then it’s up to you to decide if this is the right editor for you or to ask clarifying questions. It’s also a useful way for them to estimate how long the edit will take them and give you an accurate quote.

This isn’t quite so easy for developmental editors because one page or chapter of your novel isn’t a standalone piece of writing. Whilst a copyeditor can typically address issues such as spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax on the first page without seeing the rest of the manuscript, a developmental editor can’t comment confidently on big picture issues like characterisation or plot without reading the entire novel.

For example, if I leave a comment to say your protagonist needs a clear goal and you come back to say ‘umm, I’ve given him a goal on the next page’, I’ve wasted time flagging a problem that has already been resolved!

A sample generally doesn’t give a developmental editor enough information to go on because narrative arcs and character journeys take an entire manuscript to play out, and it’s very hard to get a clear sense of structure or pacing from just a few pages.

That said, when I receive a new enquiry from an author I do ask for a small sample of their manuscript and I’ll usually respond with some very brief, top-line feedback on what I’ve read to give them a feel for the issues I’d likely explore further in an edit. Maybe I’ve spotted right away that the main character seems too young for YA, or that your physical description is fantastic but it’s not filtered through your protagonist’s viewpoint enough.

This helps to clarify what a developmental edit actually is, since my comments will be purely about the story and not grammar or syntax, plus it gives authors a sense of my style and tone of voice when I critique a manuscript. It always comes with the caveat that this is based solely on my first impressions of a small passage and my recommendations and opinions might be completely different by the time I’ve read the whole story!

It is really important that you feel comfortable with an editor’s style and approach before agreeing to work with them so here are some ways for you to get to know me and how I work:

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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes