If there are substantive issues involving organization, structure, content, character arc, an inconsistent tone or digression from the main premise, plot points that lead nowhere or an unclear audience, then developmental editing will help you find the right direction. In developmental editing I look at the big picture rather than focus on the fine points of grammar, word choice, and punctuation. Those surface corrections are made later in the process, whereas developmental editing is best done early on, even though oftentimes I find an author will engage a developmental editor only after the work has been rejected by publishers. In any case, a good developmental edit can catapult a writer out of the doldrums and help inject a manuscript with new energy and focus.
I recognize that developmental editing can sometimes be uncomfortable for the writer who has invested a great deal of time and energy to produce a manuscript that doesn’t quite work. To facilitate the process, I discuss the vision for the book with the writer, and we work together to develop common goals toward a plan of action. Communication is key: when the collaboration between a developmental editor and a writer is in sync, with the goals clearly defined, and the author feels understood by the editor, the result can be mutually rewarding and even exciting, as gaps and excesses are eliminated and something whole and compelling emerges.
Developmental editing involves hands-on work on the manuscript, in which I insert comments in Microsoft Word’s tracked changes feature, as well as provide a separate comprehensive report and commentary on the edit.