Developmental editing: Starting conversations

Developmental editing: Starting conversations

August 1, 2019 By Tanya Gold

A potential client reaches out to you. They say they have a fiction manuscript and need a developmental editor. What do you do?

Your first step is to get samples from the work and information about the project. There are basic logistics to cover, such as title, word count, and timeline for getting it done.

You should also develop an understanding of the writer’s process, what the story means to them, and their goals. Learning more about the author and the project helps you develop an understanding of what they need and whether you are the editor who can help them.

You need to start a conversation. But you also want to be efficient with your time.

Having a list of questions ready for potential clients can save time and ensure that you cover everything you need to know. The answers to these questions can reveal details you can refer to later, should you take on the project.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

This list of questions should cover the basic information you would want to know for any kind of edit:

For a developmental edit you also want to ask them questions covering:

Their responses will help you gauge their skill level and understanding of the process, get a sense of how much work needs to go into the story, and determine what is important to them. They will give you insight into what they need and how you can help them. They will give you a sense of the message the author is intending to convey in this story, which can provide direction in your edit.

Using a list of questions as a starting point and adapting it to reflect what the client has told you can make the conversation feel more personal. And it should feel personal. Fiction and creative nonfiction are often very personal projects for writers.

Engage with them. Invite them to ask questions. Respond to things that they have said. The better you understand the writer and their work, the better you can reflect their vision.

They are trusting you with the development of their creative work. Show them that they are putting it in the right hands.

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