Consider Developmental Editing After Writing That First Draft

A developmental editor critically examines a manuscript.

You’ve completed a first draft of your manuscript. Congratulations! Now you need it checked by a developmental editor.

Developmental editing is the process where the editor critically examines the manuscript and addresses all the major issues, including style issues, sentence phrasing, and pacing. The key word is critically because the work can result in substantially changing the manuscript for the better.

Developmental editing goes by many names:

Structural editing because it delves into the structure;

Content editing because the content is critically analyzed;

Comprehensive editing because it looks at the comprehensive picture;

Story editing because the overall story is examined;

Macro editing because it looks at the overall picture and doesn’t sweat the details.

The bottom line is that a developmental editor focuses on the big picture. This is important because it’s easy for you to be captivated by your passion in your subject matter. But will your audience feel the same way? A developmental editor makes sure they do.

Developmental editing involves recommending how to break down the book’s overall message into understandable bits. To do so, a developmental editor might ask the following questions: 

What are you trying to say?

Who is your audience? 

Are you reaching them with what you’ve written?

What are your main points, and are you articulating them clearly so your audience understands them?

Is your book structured in such a way that it’s easy to follow, and does it follow a logical path so the reader doesn’t get lost or confused?

It is very important you have an outside set of eyes look at the overall view. You typically are intimately involved and might assume what you know is universally understood by the reader. Very often, it isn’t, and a developmental editor can highlight points that need to be further explained so the audience has the same understanding as you want them to have.

A developmental editor will act as a reader and help you gain perspective and show what works and what doesn’t from the reader’s perspective. Then the editor will make suggestions on what needs to be done so that you can fix the problems.

This kind of editing, in some cases, can also help you avoid getting entangled in legal complexities due to issues such as plagiarism, libel, or missing permissions. A developmental editor ensures that your manuscript isn’t going to face legal challenges. Nor will it be hampered by any bias or prejudice, such as with race, color, creed, religion, political opinion, or age or gender, that might alienate a part of your audience and result in lower book sales at a minimum and legal challenges at worst. These issues need to be addressed before publication.

To many first-time authors, your book is your baby, and you want what’s best for your baby. Partnering with a developmental editor accomplishes this because this type of editing provides guidance for how to fit all the big-picture elements together into a cohesive book. Working with a professional like me increases the likelihood that your baby will grow — through subsequent drafts — into the book you always envisioned.

Want to talk about it? I can be reached at (818) 521-1675, [email protected], or on LinkedIn (

Next: What developmental editing isn’t

Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan

Imagine cradling your book in your arms. See yourself thumbing through the pages, reading the words, recognizing that what’s contained therein is your story, laid out for all to see. This symbol of your life is part catharsis and part healing. Your journey is complete, and you’ve reached the people who needed to hear your story.

You have a story that just has to be told. If you don’t get it out of your head, you will regret it. You know that if people just could tap into the wisdom that's inside you, their lives would change for the better.

You’ve probably been feeling like you need to sit down and get it on paper. But you haven’t made it a priority. Maybe it’s because you hate writing or you don’t consider yourself a writer. Perhaps the thought of you dedicating hours a day to organizing and writing your story is too overwhelming when piled on top of life’s demands.

Or maybe you’re beset with terror: "What if my story isn’t interesting or compelling enough to reach a wide audience? Am I good enough to tell it? Can I make it irresistible, a must-read?"

You're not alone. The vast majority of people who have experienced what life has to offer have a story to tell that’s worthwhile, unique and compelling, but they never get to do it for a wider audience.

Why is it so hard? Why are you like the 97% of people who start their book don’t finish it? There is a world of difference between having the story in your head and being able to get it down on paper.

What most people don’t realize is that having the story and writing the story require two different skill sets.

The more worthwhile and compelling your story is, the more critical it is to have a professional writer give it the treatment it deserves so it will touch lives in the way you envision. That’s why it’s so important to partner with a specialist who’s an expert in the art of storytelling. Your story is too important to leave to an amateur.

Let's start a new project together.

Contact me so we can explore how a ghostwriter or editor can benefit you.