About Developmental Editing

What is developmental editing?

Developmental editing–also known as big-picture editing–evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of how a story is crafted. Developmental editing takes into consideration the author’s unique voice and writing style and works within it. The editor does not rewrite the work, but makes specific suggestions as to how the author can strengthen all aspects of the story to reflect what they’re trying to say in the most compelling way.

Examples of what is covered by developmental editing:

  • Plot inconsistencies
  • Characters who may be underdeveloped or whose actions aren’t quite believable
  • Structural weaknesses
  • Inconsistent point of view
  • Inconsistent story details

In other words, developmental editing is a general critique of what’s working and what isn’t. It is not copy-editing or proofreading, but an overall view of the writing.

The developmental edit takes place when the author has reached the point where they can no longer do anything more with the story on their own. This is usually when the story is in its second or third draft but may come later, depending on the writer and his / her process.

Who is it for?

Developmental editing is for anyone looking for professional feedback on their writing.

I specialise in working with self-publishing writers of literary and historical fiction but also enjoy coming-of-age stories and stories about everyday people from different eras. I especially love a good mystery, particularly if it has a psychological bent—I’ve been an avid mystery reader for as long as I can remember. However, as an editor, I’m happy working in many genres, so if you’re not sure if your work will be a good fit then don’t hesitate to contact me and we can discuss it.

What does the editor do?

Once we’ve agreed on the parameters of the project, I do my initial read through. This is done quickly in order to get a feeling for the pace, tone and whether or not the story would engage a reader. As I read, I make notes on the plot, characters, use of setting etc, highlighting anything that particularly stands out to me.

Then I spend time reflecting on my reading experience. This includes making yet more notes on the story to help me work out which areas need the most attention when it comes to my second read through.

During my second read through I praise what’s working and show you where the weak areas of your story are and how these might be strengthened. This is the developmental edit and involves making detailed notes on the manuscript itself, using “Track Changes” and the comments feature of MS Word.

At the end I prepare a detailed letter to guide you in your revision. The letter will highlight my main concerns with the manuscript, tying my comments together and giving advice on how to fix any problem areas.

In some cases, it may be beneficial to undergo more than one round of developmental editing.

What does the author do?

After you receive the edit, it is up to you to decide whether or not to make any or all of the suggested changes. If you do, you then go back and rework those sections of the manuscript, accepting or rejecting changes as you see fit.

Most of my edits include a complimentary consultation to discuss your revision. During this consultation you should feel free to ask any questions you might have about my edit and your writing going forward.

What will it cost?

I quote on each project individually, based on my assessment of the full manuscript. This gives me a realistic idea as to what the book may require in terms of my time and editorial input.

The initial consultation—where we discuss your project’s requirements and whether or not I can meet your preferred time frame—is free and with no obligation.

How long will it take?

That depends on what is required and will be discussed at the consultation stage. In general, a full developmental edit of a novel will take me approximately four weeks to complete.

How does an author choose the right editor?

Each editor brings different strengths and experience to the developmental edit. As a published historical novelist, I understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of feedback. I put myself in your shoes and always work within your style, spending time getting to know the qualities of your writing, and discovering how best to strengthen your work in a way that allows your unique voice to shine through.

In addition to being published, I have the following experience and qualifications that give me a unique insight into the story-crafting process:

  • I hold an MLitt in Creative Writing from The University of Glasgow with a module in Editing and Publication.
  • I have taken courses in developmental editing through the Editorial Freelancers Association.
  • I am a full member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.
  • I have been on the judging panel for a writing competition.
  • I have written book reviews for the regional Scottish magazine, Lothian Life and I write a book blog (https://kendraolson.wordpress.com).

When should I book editing in?

It’s best to organise editing when the manuscript is ready to be edited, or nearly ready. This is because a manuscript assessment will need to be carried out in order to determine the level of editing that’s required. If you’re still writing the story when editing is arranged then the assessment will be incorrect and may result in an inaccurate quote.

How can I book the service?

You can contact me by email in the first instance: kendraroseolson@gmail.com. Visit Get a Quote to access my editing questionnaire.

Please note that this service is subject to availability.