We see any number of writers excited by having finished the first draft of a manuscript. And so they should be. This is a massive accomplishment. K J Matthews (one of our authors) has started over 3000 stories and finished a few more than a handful.
But what do you do next?
Do you rush into sending your manuscript away?
Send it to a beta reader? (more on those in another post)
How do you publish it?
Slow down, fledgling author. You have a long way to go before your book is publishable.
The first step has three options
- Send it to a beta reader for feedback
- Send it to a developmental/structural editor (Remember – you pay for what you get (most of the time))
- Learn how to developmentally/structurally edit yourself.
We’re not going into Options 1 and 2 here. Other than say, both options have their merits.
By learning how to edit developmentally, you will become a better writer.
Have you read those books where someone suddenly aged 10 years, or the lame bit character at the start of the novel stayed the same annoyingly lame character at the end, or you were in New York and then in Australia with no explanation?
Developmental editing allows you to find those faults in your story, and it isn’t hard, but you do need time and honesty. That’s something that K J Matthews struggled with (and one of the reasons why she started so many stories that she never finished).
Developmental Edit process
- Let your manuscript sit for months (don’t have the time, then pay a developmental editor – they are fresh eyes and honest!)
- Create a character profile for all your characters – include age, physical characteristics, weaknesses, annoying habits, strengths, family, friends, and how your character grows (if you are a planner, you may already have this.)
- Create a timeline of all events in your story. When we structurally edit, we use a spreadsheet and step out every event, every happening, no matter how small. (This is an annoying process but it helps highlight potential issues.)
- Analyse those events. Are the character reactions logical? Is the order of events consistent throughout the book? Is that scene relevant (kill the scene if it adds nothing – this is where honesty comes in!) We were involved in critiquing a story where the writer wrote the most remarkable descriptions of the built environment, but none of it was essential to the story. It didn’t set the tone or influence the characters in any way.
- Was the book boring in any part (did you change the pace of the writing and slow down or speed up the book inappropriately for the scene? (This is another reason to let the story sit for such a long time or pay a developmental editor.)
- List what you need to fix (which is why we use a spreadsheet because we do this beside each point.)
- Rewrite, cull, or edit as appropriate.
- Let the book sit for another couple of months.
And that is our method of developmentally editing. There will be as many ways of developmentally editing as there are developmental editors. This is a starting point. Adjust the process as you learn and grow.