Developmental Editing: In Practice

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.

How do you conduct a developmental edit?

Developmental editors provide feedback to authors before they publish, 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, you need more than a good grasp of literary theory. You 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.

There’s more than one way to conduct a developmental edit.

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 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.

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. The modules were well-presented, clear and insightful. 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

This course is 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 aren’t already knowledgeable about writing-craft theory and don’t know how to offer suitable suggestions on how a manuscript can be improved.

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 version of the course: self-study and tutored.


  • Immediate access to all four modules of the course + mini bonus module
  • 2h+ video content (with transcripts) + downloadable written versions
  • No deadlines – work at your own pace
  • Lifetime* access to the course materials
  • 7 bonus resources
  • Quizzes to test your understanding
  • Certificate of completion
  • 1 membership upgrade point for the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading

*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.


Everything in the self-study version, but:

  • Paced learning – one module released every fortnight (four modules + mini bonus module)
  • PLUS a set assignment per module – with detailed, personalised feedback
  • AND 3 membership upgrade points for the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading

The tutored version runs roughly twice a year. Go to the course order page to see if/when it’s running.

I’m ready to order

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

What you'll learn ...

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

Bonus resources:

  • Manuscript tracking spreadsheet
  • 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

Bonus resources:

  • 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

Bonus resources:

  • Editorial report template
  • 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

Bonus resources:

  • Example differences between line editing and developmental editing
  • 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.

I’m ready to order

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! 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! I really liked your bonus material on finding work. It was excellent!

Janina Rusiecki

Get clear on your offering and feel ready to take on clients.

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.

I’m ready to order

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.

Typically, students spend an hour or two studying each module. It varies from person to person.

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.

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.

I aim to make this available roughly twice a year, though timings will vary. If you subscribe to my newsletter, I’ll let you know when it’s on sale. Otherwise, check the course order page.

Yes! (Finally!) You’ll have the chance to choose whether to pay in full up-front or in three monthly installments before you check out. Note: You cannot revoke your course access until all three payments have been made in full. I also don’t offer payment plans for the tutored version, I’m afraid, because of the system limitiations of having to set a cap on how many places I can sell.

Indeed I do! You can puchase both courses with a whopping 20% discount, but have to buy them both at the same time: buy the bundle here.

Absolutely. I don’t want you paying twice for the same material, so you’ll find a coupon code within the self-study course that you can use to redeem the price of the self-study course against the tutored version.

The course definitely met my expectations. In fact, this is by far the best online course I’ve taken. 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

Become confident in your service

Order the course