Developmental Editing + Editorial Letter
Developmental editing (sometimes called structural or content editing) is big-picture chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene editing. This includes an analysis of the full manuscript and suggestions for reworking the following where needed to help you create the best story possible.
1) Premise/plot – What dramatic questions are being asked in the narrative? Do these dramatic questions create tension and engage the reader? Do they drive the plot forward in a meaningful, relevant, comprehensible, complete, and consistent way? Are the dramatic questions consistent for the characters to whom they pertain? Are they resolved in ways that the reader will find engaging and satisfying? Does the storytelling fit within the genre or perhaps stretch it in entertaining new ways?
2) Conflict – Are the primary and secondary conflicts of the story clear and comprehensible? Does the central conflict develop consistently in a manner that creates dramatic tension and engages the reader? Is there an escalation of risks, stakes, and consequences to carry the narrative forward throughout the story? Are conflicts layered, and are they paced in ways that intrigue, captivate, and compel the reader to continue?
3) Character – What are the personal goals, motivations, stakes, and conflicts (both internal and external) for each character? Is each character multidimensional and unique? Does each have his or her own voice and inner journey? Do the characters react to the story’s conflicts in ways that are consistent with their personalities? Are their motivations clear? Is there enough emotional exposition and movement in each character to show her or his depth and relationship to others, the plot, and the conflicts?
Using MS Word’s track changes feature, I will make suggestions for tightening up or further developing all of the areas above, with each page, paragraph, scene, and chapter evaluated in the context of the full manuscript. Examples (though by no means a comprehensive list) of the types of suggestions you might see include,
- Highlighting scenes that do not advance the story with an explanation about why this may be and potential ways to rework them.
- Suggestions for strengthening characters’ goals, stakes, and motivations. Showing where conflicts can be deepened to increase these stakes and consequences for characters.
- Ways to further actualize settings that may be underdeveloped and use them to advance the plot and conflicts.
- Suggestions for strengthening the premise and/or themes for greater impact and to increase reader engagement.
- Advice on ways to increase tension through pacing and/or structural rearrangement.
- Pinpointing narrative weaknesses or digressions that water down or derail the plot.
Additionally, I will provide an editorial letter of generally between eight-to-twelve pages describing main areas to focus on for improving and revising the manuscript. Developmental editing does not include revisions or rewrites done by me, but may include examples of rewritten passages to help clarify my suggestions. Keep in mind, once developmental editing is complete, it is usually recommended that a manuscript be line-edited, and all manuscripts should be copyedited and proofread before they are ready to publish.
Rate: $3.50 per page for novella- and novel-length projects. Short stories (under 17,500 words) are edited at a $45 per hour (one hour minimum) rate instead of at a per page rate. Genres: Speculative fiction, including all science fiction, fantasy, steampunk (or any punk), urban, paranormal, horror, superhero, dystopian, etc. Suspense, thriller, and crime. Action-adventure.
Manuscript Critique/Beta Read
In a critique, I will assess big-picture manuscript strengths and weaknesses. In addition to addressing any specific areas you would like feedback on, I'll focus on the following questions:
Does the plot have legs and flow well? Are the characters well drawn with clear motivations and goals? Does the conflict drive the story forward in an exciting and engaging way? Does too much exposition and info-dumping slow down the pace? Is the tone consistent?
A critique includes a three-to-five-page editorial letter to answer your specific questions and highlight the manuscript’s main opportunities for improvement. This service tends to best serve writers who are more confident in their self-editing and rewriting skills or those who are just starting out and are looking for some guidance on where to focus their efforts on improving their craft.
Rate: $2.00 per page for the first 200 pages. $1.00 per page for each additional page. Short stories (under 17,500 words) are edited at a $35 per hour (one hour minimum) rate instead of at a per page rate. Genres: Speculative fiction, including all science fiction, fantasy, steampunk (or any punk), urban, paranormal, horror, superhero, dystopian, etc. Suspense, thriller, and crime. Action-adventure.
Line-editing (sometimes called substantive editing) is best described as a language edit rather than a structural edit of a manuscript, with focus on:
- Consistency in tone, style, and voice. For example, if you have a story modeled on medieval times, I would flag use of language that is more contemporary, such as terms like “gumshoe” or “hangover” or “SNAFU” as well as modern-day idioms and objects that might pull readers from the narrative. Naturally, the author’s intent may be a mixing of old-world and modern-times ideas and cultures, so this kind of item might be fluid. The key is that, as the editor, I would be able to tell you if the use of anachronisms or otherwise inconsistent elements works or not, and offer possible fixes.
- Consistency in character. Where a character’s use of language, physical details, or motivations change abruptly or without explanation, a line-edit will help pinpoint those gaps and suggest ways to bridge them.
- Consistency in point of view.
- Reducing word bloat when it doesn’t serve the story.
- Flagging clichés and mixed metaphors.
- Trimming out redundancy in word usage, and flagging repetition where story details are repeated unnecessarily in different ways.
- Improving pacing and flow in sentence and paragraph structure.
- Trimming unnecessary dialogue tags; adding dialogue tags for clarity or pacing; and flagging overly flowery dialogue tags that distract from the story.
- Smoothing out scene/chapter transitions.
- Enhancing or altering sentences and paragraphs to ensure the author’s meaning is clearly conveyed or to clarify confusing passages.
- Flagging areas that may require copyright-holder permission for use (such as the inclusion of lyrics or lines from poems written by someone other than the author).
A line-edit may correct a swath of grammatical and typographical issues found in a manuscript, but this is not its main purpose. After a line-edit, the author may still choose to make some changes to the underlying components of a story (examples include but are not limited to: changing a character’s role or even cutting a character or combining two into one; changing a setting; or altering some aspects of the world-building, magic systems, or technology). Ultimately it is the author’s decision about which recommended changes by their editor to retain or reject, therefore the end result of a line-edit after the author’s revisions is considered to be at least two-steps shy of being ready to publish and will still need both a copyedit and proofread before it is good to go.
Rate: $3.50–$5.50 per page. Short stories (under 17,500 words) are edited at a $45 per hour (one hour minimum) rate instead of at a per page rate. Genres: Speculative fiction, including all science fiction, fantasy, steampunk (or any punk), urban, paranormal, horror, superhero, dystopian, etc. Suspense, thriller, and crime. Action-adventure.
The final cleaning up of the mechanics of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax occurs during copyediting, including,
- Fixing misused homophones (i.e., pale/pail, it’s/its, complement/compliment, etc.).
- Ensuring correctness and consistency in spelling and capitalization of all proper nouns, titles, locations, etc.
- Ensuring consistency in stylistic and formatting elements such as numbers, quotes, italics, headers, and punctuation.
- Ensuring consistency of verb tense.
- Light fact-checking.
- Adherence to the author’s preferred style guide (if one is given).
- A copyedit followed by a proofread are the last steps before a manuscript or short story is ready for independent publishing or submitting your work to an acquiring editor, agent, or publisher, and rarely would any content or structural changes be made after the completion of a copyedit. A copyedit assumes the manuscript’s structure, content, and even such considerations as use of clichés and word choice are deliberate. This service will correct the items listed above, but deeper editing elements would be handled in a line-edit and/or developmental edit. Each project I copyedit will be delivered back to you with a complete style guide and word list*. (*See Details and Other Information section below for explanation.)
Rate: $3.00–$4.00 per page. Online content (such as blog posts and website copy) is billed at a flat rate of $40 for up to 500 words and 6¢ per word thereafter. Short stories (under 17,500 words) are copyedited at $40 per hour (one hour minimum) rate instead of a per page rate. Genres: All, including literary fiction and nonfiction.
This is the final double check after the author has completed their final review and acceptance or rejection of a copyeditor’s changes. Traditionally, a proofread was the last step for a printed publication before going to press, and therefore focused on items like typesetting; consistent pagination; publication design; rivers, widows and orphans; fleurons; and numerous other components not necessarily applicable to an ebook or MS Word document, as well as making sure any touch-ups an author made post copyedit were correct. I provide proofreading for PDF galley proofs and MS Word or Scrivener manuscripts, though the list of items checked will differ slightly between them. However, this service is only offered for projects that have already been copyedited (not necessarily by me) and are accompanied by a complete style guide and word list*. (*See Details and Other Information section below for explanation.)
Rate: $2.50 per page. Short stories (under 17,500 words) are proofread at a $30 per hour (one hour minimum) rate instead of at a per page rate. Genres: All, including literary fiction and nonfiction.
I and many of my clients have been independently publishing for several years. Are you considering doing the same but have no idea where to start? I am happy to chat with you via Skype/Google Hangout to answer all of your questions and give you recommendations on how to get started and where to go next. Every independent publisher enjoys their own unique journey, and gathering a quiver of tools and strategies from others who are farther down the path can make for a smoother, more fulfilling adventure.
I can also assist you in reaching your publishing goals by evaluating your manuscript synopsis, book jacket blurb/description, query letter, and pitch. Contact me to discuss.
Rate: $45 per hour
Not Sure What You Need?
I’m here to help. Please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss your project and your vision for it. Together we can come up with a strategy that is tailored just for you and fits both your publishing and budget goals.
I also highly recommend visiting this article at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to help assess your editing needs.
Details and Other Information
What’s a Style Guide and Word List? This is a document that lists all characters’ names and their correct spellings and any germane character details that need to be tracked through the story; locations and their spellings; notes regarding timing of story events; unique or unusual words or words spelled differently than the dictionary referenced for the manuscript; style and formatting decisions that differ from Chicago Manual of Style or the style guide referenced; foreign words and phrases; and much more. Copyeditors use these to ensure consistency and continuity throughout a manuscript.
Repeat Clients: You might notice in my portfolio and project list how often I work with the same author on many books. I love my clients! Because of you all, I am privileged to spend my day immersed in brilliant, fantastic, amazing worlds and words, and I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you. So instead of telling you, I try to show you by extending a 5 percent discount to all repeat clients for any service on all novels after the first full-novel service.
Referrals: Another way I can show my appreciation for your trust is through a referral discount. If you are a current client of mine, please let your friends and colleagues know about your experience with Inspired Ink Editing. Each time you refer a new author to me for whom I complete a novel-length developmental edit, manuscript critique, line-edit, copyedit, or proofread, you will both receive a 5 percent discount (cumulative with a Repeat Client discount). Theirs will be applied to their first full-novel service and yours to your next full-novel service.
Scheduling Lead Time: I am often booked two to three months out, though I do occasionally have last-minute openings. I encourage you to contact me at least two months before you plan to have your project edited in order to ensure preferred scheduling.
Reservations and Deposit: For projects estimated to cost $500 or greater, a deposit of 50 percent of the estimated project total is required upon scheduling to guarantee a reservation. For projects estimated to cost less than $500, the full fee is required upon scheduling to guarantee a reservation. All payments can be made through Intuit Quickbooks online invoicing, wire transfer, or check.
Page Length: The industry-standard page length is 250 words per page. All project fees will be calculated using this as the basis for determining page number.
Sample Line-edit or Copyedit: I am happy to provide a free sample line-edit or copyedit of five pages for works exceeding 5,000 words, or three pages for those under. This lets you get a feel for my editing style ahead of time to decide if you think we’ll be a good fit for each other, and allows me to determine what level of line- or copyediting your project will require and the project rate.
Ready to start a book together? Great! I am too. Send me a message and let’s get in touch.
Please contact me with any questions or to inquire about working together. Helpful information to include is your genre, your word count, and a brief description of your project.
If you would like a free line-edited or copyedited sample of your work to get a feel for my style and receive a quote for your project, please email me five pages (1,250 words) in MS Word format at tammy (at) inspiredinkediting (dot) com.