You might have also heard this called a comprehensive critique, a substantive edit, or a macro edit. (No wonder everyone is confused, right?) They’re all the same thing.
A developmental edit doesn’t involve correcting your punctuation and grammar or smoothing out awkward sentences. It’s about big picture issues—for example, characterization, setting, plot, too much/not enough backstory, showing vs. telling, dialogue, POV problems, and making sure each scene has a clear goal and enough tension.
Sometimes a developmental edit will come back to you as an editorial letter of anywhere from 10 to 30 pages for an average novel.
Sometimes along with the editorial letter you’ll also receive a copy of your manuscript with comments added to flag issues.
Neither way is right or wrong, but the second way will cost more because it points out right in the manuscript, in detail, where you need to make changes. For example, when you only get an editorial letter, your developmental edit probably won’t flag individual POV errors or showing vs. telling. It will tell you that you have those problems, but then it’s up to you to find them and fix them.
Because I know different people have different budgets, I offer both types of developmental edits.
I also offer a plot review.
You go through your book and write a paragraph detailing each scene. What’s the point of view character’s goal? What happens? What essential plot/sub-plot information is revealed in this scene? In what way does this scene affect the character? What’s the total word count after each scene? Include as much detail as you can. For an 80,000-word novel, you might write 20-30 pages.
I’ll use that document to look for plot holes, loose ends that haven’t been tied off, episodic writing, and places where the pacing may be wrong. If you go into enough depth in your summary, I’ll also be able to comment on your main character’s motivation, the consistency of their actions, whether they’re active or reactive (you want the former), and much more.
A plot review is a good option for someone who can’t figure out what’s wrong with their plot, can’t afford a full developmental edit, or who thinks their book might need more than one round of developmental editing.
For a quote, or if you need help figuring out what type of edit your project needs, please contact me.