This is arguably the most important stage of editing. Developmental editing addresses big picture items such as concept, structure, character development, genre conventions, point-of-view, theme, and world-building. A developmental editor will also look at how you are constructing individual scenes to move the story forward, show character growth through action, and develop your themes.
If you don't have a lot of experience with writing and a group of beta readers that you can rely on to give you honest constructive criticism, a developmental edit could be crucial to your manuscript's success.
A developmental edit consists of notes within your document using Word's Track Changes function and may involve moving, deleting, and rewriting portions of your manuscript. Where a manuscript review will give a broad-stroke analysis of your work, a developmental edit will dive into all the nitty-gritties of the story.
A manuscript review takes a broad look at how you’re executing the different aspects of storytelling, highlights patterns, and gives you an idea of what is working about your manuscript and what isn’t working for a fraction of the cost of developmental editing. It’s not a substitute for developmental editing, but it can help you make sure you’re on the right track.
I offer Manuscript Reviews at a flat rate of $650 for up to 75,000 words. The cost includes
My review of your work
5 pages of written notes
Suggestions for next steps
One-hour phone consultation for you to ask questions about my notes
Line editing and copyediting are sometimes considered two ends of a spectrum. However, line editing is much more involved in the substance of sentences, which is why it's also sometimes called substantive editing. In some ways, line editing fills the gap between developmental editing and copyediting.
A line edit can not only improve the musicality of your prose, but it can also help you address any areas where you might be able to use exposition more effectively, adjust dialogue and description to express character, and improve the flow of paragraphs and sentences.
A copyeditor should only be engaged AFTER any developmental or line editing has been completed. The last thing you want to do is go back and make content and story edits to pages that have been copyedited. It will wind up costing you a lot more time and money.
Pricing is by the word and runs between $.02 and $.04 per word. The following is a list of issues addressed in various stages of copyediting.
Grammar & punctuation errors
Word usage errors
The 3 Cs: clarity, consistency, concision
Seeming factual inconsistencies & errors
Gaps in logic
Unless specifically contracted to do so, a copyeditor will not fact check your work; they will only query you where it seems that a fact has been inconsistently or erroneously stated.
I always include a style sheet for my copyediting clients. Style sheets track correct spelling of names and words that may get special treatment, have multiple correct spellings, or be made up, in addition to punctuation and style decisions that a copyeditor makes along the way. This is done so that any editor that comes after the copyeditor, a production editor or proofreader, for example, has an easy reference and can make corrections that are consistent with the copyeditor's work.
It’s important to remember that copyeditors are only human and will not catch every single error. However, a good copyeditor will catch 95% of errors.
Proofreading is the final stage and usually happens after a manuscript has been typeset. This is to make sure there are no “widows and orphans”—words at the end of paragraphs that appear alone at the top or bottom of a page—or other straggling errors such as typos and words that are clumsily split between lines.
Sometimes, if an author is self-publishing in e-format, typographical errors are a moot point.
Proofreading is never a stand-in for copyediting and should only be contracted after a professional has copyedited your manuscript. I always recommend that you contract with a different editor for proofreading than you did for copyediting since, as humans, the more time we spend with a text, the fewer errors our eyes are capable of seeing. A pair of fresh eyes at this stage is the best strategy.