In-depth developmental editing of Book-Length Fiction

I develop book-length, completed fiction manuscripts by intensively engaging the narrative at the levels of structure and of prose.  Depending on the needs of the manuscript, I do this work through either a Comprehensive Content Line Edit or an Overall Analysis, or in some cases both.  Some writers know which method would work best with their writing/revision process; others ask for my advice on which would be more effective in their cases.

Normally, comprehensive editing services follow an Initial Evaluation.  That way the author knows beforehand the approach editing will take and the range of advice that will be offered.  Fees are designated at a flat rate and are determined during the evaluation process.

As explained in New to Inkslinger?, I tailor my advice to resolve issues specific to the manuscript before me. I see my job as presenting options, and I treat every project as a fresh challenge while also bringing nine years of experience to the project. This might include advice on the following issues:

  • Making sure the pitch and the manuscript work as a team
  • Adjusting narrative point of view so that individual scenes are easier to follow and the manuscript is unified
  • Shifting how nonfiction arguments open and develop
  • Identifying a more exciting opening to set the stage for plot and character development from beginning to end
  • Compressing characters and managing their internal voice
  • Identifying and transforming passages of telling prose
  • Presenting theme through action
  • Presenting character motivation and development more powerfully through action
  • Intensifying the ending and making the reader want to rave about the book via all the social media at their fingertips.

The following sections discuss in more detail the two different approaches to comprehensive, in-depth editing.

Overall Analysis

Through the Overall Analysis, I examine a manuscript in terms of overall structure and the effective use of writing techniques. Depending on the specific problems exhibited by the manuscript, I might discuss: narrative point of view, correlative narrative, internal voice, building reader identification with characters, or developing lines of tension, among other things. The analysis is written in the spirit of an agent’s revision letter, but with added attention to the discussion of technique. In my experience, education—i.e., the presentation of why something works, or not—allows the writer to progress more quickly.

An Overall Analysis might be anywhere from 10–35+ pages, depending on the needs of the book. In a shorter analysis, I focus on the two or three structural issues most critical in revision. In a longer analysis, I discuss the manuscript chapter by chapter. The length is chosen by the writer, often in consultation with me after the completion of an Initial Evaluation.

This developmental editing work is similar to the “Revision Letter/Note” that agents provide for authors they accept for representation. I also have ample experience in working with authors after they’ve received an agent Revision Letter—so if you have one in hand and are trying to figure out exactly how to revise, please contact me. I would love to help.

Comprehensive Content Line Edit

In Content Line Edits, I examine a manuscript’s prose for clarity, meaning, and energy. Through the Track Changes function of Microsoft Word, I edit the manuscript line by line, making adjustments, additions, and deletions. Reorganization of material is done as suggestions where needed.

The Content Line Edit offers far more, however, than mere prose adjustments and reorganization of material. Through margin comments, I explain the reasoning behind changes and discuss problems that appear and re-appear in the text. I also identify areas that lack clarity or require further plot and character development, then discuss how to address these problems through specific suggestions and solutions, including the creation of specific scenes or argument/break-narrative chapters that fill in certain holes in plot/character/theme development.

In addition to the line-by-line edit, I send a brief Revision Note document in which I discuss key issues at greater length. Revision Notes are of indeterminate length—whatever it takes to help the author understand the problem and the solutions. Typically, these are around 5 pages.