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A true developmental edit looks at the big picture of a manuscript. The editor works with a manuscript as a whole, analyzing how well its various parts contribute to the central message or narrative. Whereas a copy editor takes a micro view by drilling into the spelling, grammar, and punctuation details, the developmental editor goes macro and asks, “Does this work as a book?” Because nonfiction manuscripts are generally straightforward, developmental editing them focuses more on presenting the material in an easy-to-follow manner with a clear structure. Fiction is much different, and depending on the genre, a manuscript can get downright confusing and messy. When developmental editing for fiction, elements such as plot, character, and dialogue (to name just a few,) must be considered, which is very different from nonfiction. While fiction is challenging for developmental editors, it is highly satisfying when it works. You will also become very close to the authors because you're literally working so closely with them to develop an interesting story. While there are few "hard and fast" rules in fiction, there are a number of issues to become familiar with and learn how to resolve, regardless of the genre.
Jill Welsh is an experienced manuscript editor and writing coach who works closely with authors to help them create the most professional and marketable books possible. She specializes in manuscript evaluations, developmental editing, and copy editing for both fiction and nonfiction manuscripts. Jill has an Editing Certificate from the Graham School and a background in traditional publishing. She owns JWelsh Editorial and is also the president of Chicago Women in Publishing. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.