Developmental Editing for fantasy fiction

Developmental editing for fantasy fiction authors

What is developmental editing?

Have you ever read a book and been left feeling a bit disappointed? Or have you read what could have been a really enjoyable book if the characters weren’t so……flat? Maybe you’ve read a book where it was so full of plot holes, it left you nothing but annoyed and confused. Or worse yet, you close the book and are left wondering what the story was even about.

A developmental edit can help every single one of those scenarios. A developmental edit is one of those things you notice when a story hasn’t had one. The reasons behind bad reviews — poor ending, unrelatable characters, plot holes, boring, confusing, skatty — are often due to a lack of a developmental edit. So by investing in one, it can help you avoid falling into the same traps.

Developmental editing is all about helping you to develop your plot and characters. It isn’t aimed to tear your work apart with a big fat red pen. It’s designed to show where your story and characters are absolutely working. But also where it needs some further development to make it the best it can be.

Often referred to as ‘big picture’ editing, developmental editing is the first stage of editing and looks at your manuscript as a whole. It will not look for correct grammar and spelling or even sentence structure; those all come after a developmental edit. Most of all, a developmental editor is on your side. Editing is a partnership. We want you to succeed.

How a developmental edit can help you

Because a developmental edit looks at big picture issues, it helps you to nail the structure of your book, giving the reader the best possible experience. It helps draw them into the story and keep them in the story. Not only that, but it helps your readers to finish your book feeling satisfied and wanting to read more of your work.

Developmental editing helps to eliminate plot holes, improve clarity, and eliminate confusion. It also helps set the right tone for your intended audience and genre. A developmental edit (sometimes called a structural edit) looks at story structure, including placement of the inciting incident, as well as the climax and resolution.

But it doesn’t stop there.

A developmental edit also looks at character development. Are they well rounded? Are they relatable? Do they have clear arcs, goals, and motivation? By helping to identify clear arcs and well-rounded relatable characters, your readers will become more invested in your story. Consistency with character dialogue and actions — especially in relation to their growth/arc — is just as important. That’s why a developmental edit also covers this area.

Lastly, a developmental edit takes a look at the pacing of your manuscript, including chapter lengths. Why? Because good pacing keeps the reader turning the pages.

How long does a developmental edit take?

How long a developmental edit takes will depend on how much work is needed. But, as a ballpark figure, you should expect anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks. And to help showcase why it takes that long, I’ve detailed my process below.

After receiving your initial enquiry, we would ideally chat for a bit and get a feel for whether we’d like to pursue working with each other. If the fit feels good for us both, I’ll then send you a questionnaire to fill out to allow me to learn as much about your manuscript from your point of view as possible. I want to understand you. Your goals. Your vision and your voice. I want to know what elements you’re confident with and those you’d like extra attention given to. Why? Because to give relevant feedback, I need to understand your motives, intent, and wishes.

Once we have chosen to work together, I’ll begin reading your entire manuscript. As I read, I’ll make notes using the ‘comment’ tool in Word of what is working, what’s done well, as well any areas that need revising or developing.

After this, I then start expanding on those comments. You’ll receive a PDF editorial letter of anywhere from 12 to 20 pages explaining my findings alongside feedback on specific elements, chapters, and characters.

Once you’ve received your manuscript and editorial letter, I’ll be available to talk to (via email, messenger, or zoom) for up to a month after you receiving your feedback, for up to a maximum of two hours. Any hours beyond this are available at an additional charge. Why only up to a month after? Because I need your manuscript fresh in my mind to provide you with the best service.

How much does developmental editing cost?

As a specialist in fantasy, I expect most manuscripts to be around the 120,000 to 130,000 word count, which is a fair amount longer than other genres. Because of this, my pricing does reflect the longer word count.

For a developmental edit with in-manuscript comments and an editorial letter of between 12 and 20 pages, my rate is £1,250 and payment plans can be offered. Please note my rates are in line with the recommended minimum hourly rates given by the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading).

If this is outside of your budget, I also offer manuscript critique. This is a ‘mini developmental edit’ and identifies what areas are working and which areas need improvement, however, it does not go into as much detail or provide as much guidance as a full developmental edit. A manuscript critique is £625 and will take approximately 4 to 6 weeks to complete.

“Don’t listen to people who tell you that very few people get published and you won’t be one of them. Don’t listen to your friend who says you are better than Tolkien and don’t have to try any more. Keep writing, keep faith in the idea that you have unique stories to tell, and tell them.”

— Robin Hobb


Through developmental editing, I help self-publishing authors turn their stories into novels.

Combining my passion and experience of fantasy with my knowledge of the craft of storytelling, I help new authors transform their manuscripts into books that readers won’t just read, but experience.

Stacey Bowditch - CIEP Member

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