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What is Developmental Editing?

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

What is Developmental Editing? Developmental editing is a critical phase in the editing of an author’s work designed to elevate said work. It focuses on the overall content of an author’s manuscript. An editor is not just looking for spelling mistakes and misused words when doing a developmental edit. They’re looking to see whether your overall content makes sense the way that it is structured. In other words, a developmental editor looks at the whole picture: story structure and organization, plot holes, character development, pacing, inconsistencies, contradictions, dialogue discrepancies, etc.

The Process: Developmental editing is the most detailed, comprehensive, and thoughtful editing package offered by Amma Edits. During a developmental edit, your manuscript will be deconstructed and rebuilt in the most critical of cases, but in general, I will offer ideas to further develop your plot, in addition to detailed plot hole notes. Full chapters might be moved or deleted, paragraphs will be rewritten, moved, or deleted entirely. Characters might be tamed, given a makeover, or killed altogether. The dialogue will be refined or given some personality.

Here are a few things that developmental editing focuses on:

Story structure and organization – Does the overall story flow in a logical and clear pattern, in a way that makes sense? Is it well organized or are the author's thoughts scattered?

Plot consistency – An author’s story falls apart when the plot lacks consistency. Is your story made up of a series of plots that leave the reader asking, “what happens next?” Or did you make a wrong turn and leave them asking, “so what? That doesn’t even make any sense.”

Pacing – Ever heard a reader say a book fell flat? This happens when the author neglects to properly pace their story. Good pacing builds up emotion and leads a reader to keep turning the page. Poor pacing leaves them disappointed.

Character arc/development – Who are your characters? Do they have depth, personality, and clear motivations? Nail these three dimensions of character development and you will leave readers connecting to your characters in a unique way.

Point of View (POV) and narration – Who is telling the story? Is it your character (first person), you, the author (third person), or readers (second person)? Once you’ve established who your narrator is, make sure to use the right point of view to tell your story.

Tone and voice consistency – Unless you have different characters with different personalities and voices, your tone as an author must be consistent. This is a tricky point in storytelling that can be best polished with the help of a developmental editor.

Once a manuscript has been through the developmental editing stage, it is time for line editing/ copyediting and proofreading before sending it off for publication.

Overall, developmental editing is an incredibly involved process that requires great collaboration between editor and author. Because of the amount of time and discussions (back and forth) invested in developmental editing, we will either be friends by the time the project is over or great enemies. I have made no enemies thus far, only friends whom I respect and admire. Therefore, developmental projects are some of my most favorite projects.


Hi, my name is Amma, and I have spent over a decade guiding authors through the book editing process. My developmental editing feedback with actionable suggestions will help guide you through the rewriting process and help you think about your story's big picture.

  • Does your story start strong and fall flat midway through? (Pacing)

  • Have you invested enough truth and authenticity in your characters' personalities to make their actions realistic and believable? (Character Development)

  • Does your story have flow and clarity? (Plot)

You'll receive, as part of your developmental editing feedback, a manuscript marked up using track changes (with some line editing), with suggestions, and embedded comments. With projects requiring a deeper level of developmental editing, I will include an editorial letter outlining and suggesting how to restructure the story. Then we will work together to piece together the missing pieces.

To submit your manuscript to me for a free sample edit, send about 4 pages of your manuscript that do not include the front matter and/or the first few chapters. Preferably, pick the sample from the middle of your story. Submissions must be sent in industry-standard format (with 1-inch margins, double-spaced, Times New Roman, or Courier font)

I am a skilled developmental editor with several notable projects under my belt, and I'm here to help you make your story come alive!

"Amma was very helpful in both the line editing and developmental work. She spent a good deal of time and thought into her suggestions (most of which I used). It was a very collaborative effort. I would strongly recommend using Amma and I will do so again."

Phillip Landry - Author of Cancer Free!


Rates: Rates for developmental editing depend on the amount of work involved and agreed upon, and the number of passes requested by the author. Contact me for a personalized rate and payment plan.

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