Learn the nuances of developmental editing and how to collaborate effectively with an author. Kim Miller is a senior editor at Tyndale House Publishers, located near Chicago, USA.
Watch this six-minute video. Enjoy a summary below.
Developmental editing is not copyediting—correcting grammar, cleaning up mistakes, or cleaning up a manuscript. It is a partnership between an editor and author who work to strengthen a book’s structure and content. The author is a key partner and his or her voice is strengthened and maintained.
Editors come with attitude of humility, recognizing the author is producing the book. We are there to assist and help. With humility, we come with confidence that we bring a set of skills, life experience and objectivity.
Developmental editing is a collaborative process— the editor and author always work together. The editor is always there to assist but ensures the author has the final word.
The reader is the important unseen person in developmental editing. The first time we read the manuscript, the editor is sitting in the reader’s place.
Steps in developmental editing:
- Read the manuscript for the first time. We editors come with questions: Who is the intended audience? What is the overarching message? As the reader, what do we see as its strengths and weaknesses that the author may not see?
- Create an editorial plan, a form that lists the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s very important to list the strengths in particular, and to bring ideas on how to improve the manuscript. This form will serve as a blueprint to use with the author through the developmental editing process.
Get the author’s input and then make some adjustments. Remember, your focus on the big picture, going back to the audience and message.
- How complete is the manuscript? Does it address the readers’ “felt need”? Is there something worthwhile for the reader?
- Does it carry through to the end and offer a resolution to the story or a pay off on the topic?
- Is there spiritual value and is it biblically sound?
- How is the structure? Does it flow logically and in a good order from beginning to end? Does the chapter order makes sense? Do headings break up chapters? Could some content be put into maps or glossaries?
- Is the writing clear, compelling and logical? Give feedback to the author.
- Give specific direction in all these areas. Don’t just say, “Sometimes your writing is general or awkward.” Give examples of places where work can be done. Ask the author to do the work, but always give examples, feedback and ideas. Talk through things with the author because he/she may likely feel unsure of how to proceed.
- Once the editing is complete, get the author’s approval on a final manuscript. It’s their book and you want them to be satisfied.
- Turn over your work to the copy editor for spelling, factual and grammar errors. You’re still involved as the process continues, perhaps serving as conduit between copy editor and author. Your role is to stick with the author until the project is complete.
- Finally, celebrate with the author when the project is complete. Congratulate him or her and rejoice as you begin to hear feedback from readers.
This video was shot by Team David at MAI’s LittWorld 2015 conference in Singapore.