Developmental editing

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What is developmental editing?

All editors tend to define and refer to their services differently so it can be hard to understand exactly what’s being offered when we talk about developmental editing. As opposed to a copyeditor, line editor or proofreader who focus on sentence level issues like spelling, grammar, consistency and style, a developmental editor takes a step back to concentrate on the big picture. They’ll help you with story elements like plot, structure, character and pacing and you might choose to work with one right at the start of your writing process when you’re planning and outlining, or later when you’ve already written several drafts.

Typically, a developmental editor will read your manuscript and then either write a report full of feedback and recommendations for strengthening your story (which might be called a critique or assessment or something similar) or do a full developmental edit which usually means marking up your manuscript with comments and suggestions to accompany a written report. I leave my comments in the margin using Word’s track changes feature but all editors work differently.

What do children’s authors need to know?

When researching developmental editors, look for somebody who knows the middle grade or YA market and has experience editing those books. An editor who only works with picture books or adult fiction, for example, won’t be familiar with the very specific conventions and audience expectations attached to MG and YA, nor will they understand what agents and publishers are looking to acquire right now.


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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