Developmental Editing Revealed
Obviously we have all heard the term ‘The Big Picture’. Well, this editing round does look at that, but it involves much more than spotting plot holes and weak character arcs. It involves structuring the novel in the best way for your author’s manuscript to sing, choosing the right POV, the right sequence of events, and things like when it is best to reveal who the killer is.
Let’s say the author has written the manuscript with the chapters alternating between two points of view, but when you read it, you feel this structure is difficult to follow. You become lost, not understanding if the events in one chapter are happening at the same time as the next chapter or if they are linear events. In this case, you could suggest the author create subtitles to make this clear. Adding the date or time as a subtitle could be an effective way to inform the reader things are happening at the same time or at different times. Although, I do not suggest ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch’ as a solution. You may need to suggest the author re-write the whole novel, but that is only as a last resort.
Maybe the author reveals the killer too soon or reveals it to the reader, but you don’t feel it is effective for their novel. You could advise them to hold back on the revelation to create more suspense. Or to move the unveiling chapter to deeper into the book.
Another example is their character arc doesn’t stretch far enough, or it seems the MC develops too quickly. This will depend on if it is a stand-alone novel or a series. Obviously, a series is going to include smaller gains by the MC in each book, and they don’t fully change until the last novel. However, every book should stick to the three-act structure—in some cases, this can be adjusted to fit the novel. (I’ve been told the three-act structure is ‘vanilla’, but it has worked for millennia, so personally, I try to keep my authors as close to it as possible.)
Assessing character depth and effective setting descriptions are other parts of developmental editing. Some authors don’t create enough depth for their MC or other characters within the novel. (Again, you must consider series novels differently.) You may recommend they tell their readers more about their characters—add descriptions of their past, or maybe a flashback scene or chapter. Setting can be more difficult.
Some authors love to describe everything their MC or narrator sees in the room, right down to the pattern on the teacups people are drinking from. Others don’t give enough description of what they are seeing, leaving the reader too much of a blank slate that they don’t understand where the characters are or how they concluded the gun was hidden in the fireplace in chapter twelve, because in chapter five, when they were in the killer’s home, no fireplace was ever mentioned. Granted, that is a plot hole, but it involves setting, so I included it here.
I absolutely love developmental editing, and I could expand on this topic much more, but I will leave it here for now.