Developmental Editing: In Practice

How to go about developmentally editing a novel and working with clients.

Good news, bookworms. You can turn your knowledge of writing-craft theory into a professional service. As a developmental fiction editor, you’ll help authors improve their novels – and get paid for it.

Putting Theory into Practice

What is Developmental Editing?

Developmental editors provide feedback to authors so they can improve their yet-to-be-published manuscripts. Developmental editors do this by looking at the story as a whole and figuring out how it could be told better.

To  be able to offer this as a professional service, though, a developmental editor needs more than a good grasp of literary theory. They also need to know how to deconstruct a manuscript, communicate appropriately with authors and make suitable suggestions – which is what this course is all about.

What It Means to Conduct a Developmental Edit

Developmental editing can be conducted in several different ways and in varying degrees of depth. In this course, I’ll provide you with a broad overview of the service.

You’ll learn how to write an editorial report (also known as a manuscript critique or manuscript assessment) as well as how to edit a manuscript page-by-page.

By the end of the course, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what your developmental editing service will include and how to offer, price and conduct it.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this course. The modules were well-presented, clear and insightful, and the assignments were challenging and thought-provoking. Sophie’s feedback was positive and constructive. Having taken both [the] practical and theory courses, I would definitely recommend them to anyone interested in developmental editing.

Karen McKellar

About the Course

This Course Could Be for You If …

  • You have a sound understanding of writing-craft theory (for fiction) – you just aren’t sure how to translate this knowledge into a professional service
  • You’re already a professional developmental editor but would like to freshen up your skills, consider revising how you conduct your service and get feedback on your work
  • You want to start a fiction editing business but you don’t want to offer copy-editing or proofreading – you just want to offer big-picture feedback

This course isn’t for you if you don’t already understand what constitutes good writing. You need to be knowledgeable about writing-craft theory so you can recognise where a manuscript could be improved and be able to offer suitable suggestions.

The three-act structure. Close third-person narration. Character motivation. Narrative thrust. Universal theme … If these terms mean nothing to you, don’t take this course. (Take this one first!)

How the Course Works

This is a 4-week guided online course on how to conduct a developmental edit and work with clients. I’ll provide you with comprehensive written modules and weekly assignments, which I’ll give you detailed feedback on. Every week, I’ll email you with the course materials.

My goal is to help you decide exactly what you’d like your service to include, how to price your service, how to communicate with clients and how to conduct your service once you’ve landed those clients.

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I am very glad that I took this course. […] I had been reading a lot of books on the subject, but I wanted someone with more experience than me to guide me a bit in the smaller details of actually performing a developmental edit. And I was not disappointed. I learned a lot from Sophie. Her feedback encouraged me to improve my editing skills and to learn how I could become a better editor. I would definitely recommend her course to anyone interested in it. Thank you, Sophie.

Melina Rodriguez

Course Outline

Week 1: How Developmental Editing Works

  • What you need to know to edit fiction
  • Different methods of developmental editing
  • Where developmental editing fits in the writing/publishing process
  • How to take notes and use lists and tables

Assignment: Read the sample chapters and fill in the analysis spreadsheet provided. Using the information you’ve gathered, identify a potential issue.

Week 2: Quoting and Preparing to Edit

  • Aligning your service with the author’s goals
  • Establishing the scope of work
  • The importance of knowing your genre(s)
  • Pricing and quoting for projects

Assignment: Develop a questionnaire to send to new clients and respond to three fictional enquiries.

Week 3: Writing an Editorial Report

  • An in-depth look at what goes into an editorial report
  • Using a template to help you structure your report
  • Getting the tone of your feedback right
  • Offering objective feedback and suggestions

Assignment: Using the sample chapters from Week One, choose an issue to write about in-depth and suggest how the author can improve the writing.

Week 4: Editing the Page

  • Page-level issues to address
  • Using Track Changes and comments in Word
  • How to phrase queries and suggestions
  • Exploring when editing becomes rewriting

Assignment: Edit the sample chapters.

BONUS: Finding Clients

In this additional mini module, I’ll outline ways of finding your first paying clients.

BONUS: Q&A Video

You’re free to ask me any questions about the course materials by email throughout the duration of the course, but once the course is finished, I’ll also invite you to ask me any lingering questions you might have – about the course materials or about professional editing in general. I’ll record a video of me answering your questions!

SfEP Upgrade Points

If you’re a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, it would probably interest you to know that this course is recognised by the upgrade panel and is worth 3 points! Pretty sweet.

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The class has been great. Thank you! Your feedback [was] enlightening. I really liked your bonus material on finding work. It was excellent!

Janina Rusiecki

Who Am I To Teach Developmental Editing?

I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at UEA. I also hold an MA in Creative Writing, used to work for publishing-giant Pearson, and have completed in-depth editing training through the Publishing Training Centre and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (where I’m an Advanced Professional Member).

I’ve been running my own freelance editing practice since 2011, with manuscript critiquing (a type of developmental editing) being one of my most popular services.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Nope. This is an online course. I’ll email you the modules weekly, and you’ll email me your assignments for feedback.

No. This course relates exclusively to fiction. There’s some crossover in the skills involved, but the focus of this course is on how to develop a novel.

No. This course assumes you already have a solid understanding of what goes into a well-written novel, and that you know how to analyse a piece of writing. If you’re looking for a course that teaches this, try ‘Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory‘.

Not as long as you feel confident in your knowledge of writing craft theory. Perhaps you’ve got a degree in English Literature, or perhaps you’re an established writer, or perhaps you’ve just read a lot of books on literary analysis and writing craft.

I recommend carefully reading the outline for each course and seeing if it fits with what you think you need to learn. You can always do this course another time if you decide you do want to learn more fiction theory – the courses don’t necessarily need to be done in order (see above).

Absolutely. In fact, I encourage it. Different genres handle different aspects of storytelling in different ways, so if you specialise, you’ll be able to offer more useful feedback.

No, though I will recommend some further reading to help advance your learning.

You should set aside at least three hours per week for it.

Not at all. Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans, Wakandans … everyone is welcome. Editing is a global community, and I won’t be addressing any UK-specific publishing conventions.

Indeed there did! However, I decided that the Facebook Group wasn’t providing much additional value so have closed it down. I’ll recommend a couple of online editorial communities you can join, though, within the course.

No, so please purchase mindfully. I like to think I’ve included enough detail for you to make an informed decision about whether this course is right for you, but if you’re still hesitant about buying, feel free to email me first.

Yup! Your currency will be automatically converted when you go to pay. To check the current exchange rate, visit this useful online currency converter.

Yes, this course runs twice a year. I recommend you sign up to the notifications email list so I can let you know when registration opens. The last few times the course has run, places have sold out within a couple of hours (sometimes much less) so I recommend purchasing your spot the moment registration opens to avoid disappointment. To put things in perspective, over 500 people are currently signed up to the notifications list!

Yay! Check above to see when the course will run next! (Or to book your place if registration is currently open.)

The course definitely met my expectations. In fact, this is by far the best online course I’ve taken. The feedback was very appropriate, and I felt very comfortable approaching you with questions. The assignments were difficult, but not unapproachably so. For my level, they were exactly what I needed. This course was wonderful, and I’ll certainly be attending more of your courses. Thank you!


Registration Closed

… But opening soon! Sign up below to be notified when Liminal Pages courses open for registration.

  • Registration opens:6th Nov 2019 (8pm GMT)
  • Course starts:13th Nov 2019
  • Total places available:10
  • Fee:£299