So, you’ve finished your book. But you have a niggling feeling that something isn’t working with it, and you’ve reread it so many times, you can’t tell anymore, and you don’t know what to do.
You could have your partner read it, or friends, but they all love you and they may not be as critical as you want them to be because they want to spare your feelings, or they want to make you feel good. Plus, unless they are writers themselves, will they be able to know what advice or techniques you might use to fix what isn’t working?
That’s where a developmental editor comes in. We’re not looking for spelling or grammar (that’s a copyeditor’s job). We don’t write your books for you. But we look at the whole living, breathing shape of your book, from beginning, middle to end, to seek out the rough spots, the weak parts, the parts that don’t drive the book, and help you fix them and make them all into strengths.
A developmental editor can tell you where the book slows, and what to do about it. Maybe you’re pushing in too much back story, so we’re losing the main narrative line. If it’s fiction, maybe you added in a character who doesn’t really need to be there. Or, if it’s nonfiction, maybe you’re repeating your information or it’s coming across too flat.
Developmental editors look for structure, the skeleton of the book on which you build the muscle, the story. What I personally love about doing developmental edits is taking apart a book and seeing all the puzzle pieces, and then putting it back together in a way that gives a sharper, clearer, more resonate read.
I—and my fellow developmental editors—have all kinds of techniques and strategies to help you. It’s a wonderful collaboration, where both of us get to see your work become the book it needs it be.
Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times-bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow, as well as the critically acclaimed Cruel Beautiful World, Girls in Trouble and eight other novels. A recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts Grant in Fiction, an IndieNext Pick, A Costco Pennie’s Pick, a Goldenberg Fiction Prize winner, and a finalist in both Sundance Screenwriting Lab and Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellowships, she was also longlisted for the Maine Readers Prize. She’s a book critic for the Boston Globe and People Magazine and she teaches novel writing online at both Stanford and UCLA Extension Writers Program. Her work has been in Salon, The New York Times Modern Love, Real Simple, New York Magazine, and more. Visit her at www.carolineleavitt.com.
Do you have a book or an idea that needs the attention of a developmental editor? Pitch it to us below, and we’ll work to match you with a writer who can help you bring your story to life.