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

It really was a super valuable course, and I’m so glad that I invested in it!

Alexandra Dawning

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

There are two versions of the course: self-study and tutored.


  • Immediate access to all four modules of the course
  • Work at your own pace – lifetime* access to the course materials
  • Content available in video and written format – choose which suits your learning style
  • No assignments to complete
  • No group video discussion
  • 1 membership upgrade point for the Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading (TBC)

*Refers to lifetime of the course. If/when the course retires, access will be revoked – but you are able to download and keep all the written resources.

TUTORED (£349, taught once a year)

  • Four-module course – with additional bonus videos
  • Modules released every two weeks – helping you pace your learning
  • Content available in video and written format – choose which suits your learning style
  • Module assignments – with personalised feedback
  • Bonus module on finding work
  • Two 1-hour group chats via Zoom
  • Hardcopy certificate of achievement upon completion
  • 3 membership upgrade points for the Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading (TBC)

Please note: there are only a handful of places available at a time, and recent alumni of Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory will have priority access.

To officially complete the tutored version of the course, you need to have completed at least three of the four assignments. (If there are extenuating circumstances, we will work something out.)

* * *

The goal of this course 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

The course more than met my expectations because I did not appreciate that so much of it would be directly re-useable in my business. I really enjoyed it. I thought the exercises were excellent, the feedback, the notes, the videos, really everything about it.

Howard Walwyn

Course Outline

NOTE: Assignments and bonus videos are only for students on the tutored version of the course, not the self-study version.

Module 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.

Bonus video: What are beta readers?

Module 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.

Bonus video: The ethics and attitudes of developmental editing.

Module 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 Module One, choose an issue to write about in-depth and suggest how the author can improve the writing.

Bonus video: Example editorial report walkthrough.

Module 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 video: How to use Track Changes and Comments in Word.

BONUS: Finding Clients

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

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I took this course hoping it would provide more knowledge on the administrative side of developmental editing, and that’s exactly what I feel I’ve gained! The assignments were incredibly clear and well-structured. I was very happy with the level of feedback, which was easy to understand, encouraging, and constructive. I appreciated how the course started out with the more administrative sides of editing and then delved deeper into the real legwork of editing in the last two modules. I’ll certainly be recommending this course to my friends!

Aly Kidwell

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 Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (where I’m an Advanced Professional Member).

I’ve been running my own freelance editing practice since 2011, with manuscript critiquing and developmental editing forming a cornerstone of my work.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Nope. This is an online course.

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, unless you don’t have Microsoft Word – in which case, I recommend you buy it as this is the industry’s standard software and I’ll be teaching you how to use some of its functions to conduct your edits.

I estimate it will take you about an hour per module to absorb the content, then you’ll need another hour or two for the assignments if you’re taking the tutored version. The Zoom discussion (on the tutored version) will be an hour long.

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.

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.

Since I don’t know the details of all the other editing courses out there, I can’t really answer this question, I’m afraid. I recommend you take a close look at all the information on this web page, including the details of the course outline, and do the same with the other course you’re looking at. If the other course doesn’t offer the same level of information, you could ask the provider so you’re able to make a more accurate comparison.

You’ll be the best judge of this, so take a close look at all the information provided on this web page and have a think! If there’s something you’d like to know to help you make your decision and I haven’t mentioned it on this page, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to help.

Yes, the tutored course runs once a year. I recommend you sign up to my mailing list so I can let you know when registration opens.

Yay! Check above to see when the tutored course runs next, or to book your place if registration is currently open. If you’d rather get going straight away, purchase the self-study version 🙂

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!


Your style is engaging, knowledgeable, and approachable. I’ve been a professional writer and editor for many years [and] your course affirmed that I’ve been on the right track while also providing a lot of streamlined, useful information I’ll enthusiastically incorporate into my business. Oh, and I used the new client questionnaire I developed in this course and the client loved it so much he hired me almost immediately.

Tara Avery

Learn how to conduct your service with confidence

Click the button below to be taken the payment page, where you’ll be able to purchase access to the self-study version of the course using your credit card via a secure portal.

Next tutored version: TBC.

  • Self-study course access£149
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