As indicated in a previous post, the developmental work I do begins and ends in conversation.

Prospective authors schedule a 30-minute intake call on my calendar, and we talk about your project, timeline, and goals. During our call, I’m hoping to establish a connection, but I’m also hoping to determine fit.

If my skill set doesn’t fit an author’s needs—if you seek a straightforward proofread or require a too-tight timeline, for example—I will typically encourage a visit to the Editorial Freelancers Association job board (and I will wish you luck wading through the reams of responses you’ll definitely receive).

Other times, however, the fit feels right, and our conversation becomes a lot more interesting.

In some ways, a developmental edit is just an intense, ongoing conversation consisting of three intertwined dialogues: between the author and me, between the author and their manuscript, and between their manuscript and me. 

The conversation begins with an author articulating their extratextual focus, providing answers or even ruminations to questions such as the following: What is your book’s message? Who wants or needs to hear it? Why does this audience want or need to hear it, and what will they gain from it? What do you want out of the book publication process (in terms of number of books sold, but also in terms of legacy)? How do you want to be introduced to others five years from now?

Once I understand your answers, we turn to your manuscript and extend the conversation.

Like other Minnesotans, I am not as much out in the world these days. When I venture into public, it’s to run necessary errands, where masks make idle chit-chat feel positively furtive.

Now, when I’m asked what it is, exactly, I do, I’m describing my services–their use and their potential value–over the phone to prospective clients. Typically, I’m describing developmental editing, my most popular service for writers and publishers.

A developmental editor is a big-picture editor who helps strengthen a manuscript’s focus and structure. Most developmental editors (or at least this one) offer hands-on substantive support, including reverse outlines, sample sentences and paragraphs, and quick-and-dirty lessons on grammar or syntax.

My developmental work is informed by a bifurcated sense of focus, in both textual and extratextual terms. Textual focus refers, of course, to the clarity and persistence of subject-specific investigation. For example, if I’m working with a self-help or how-to book, I’m assessing it for focus on a clear, replicable process.

Extratextual refers to something a bit different, but something that often proves crucial to the success of a final project: This is the triangulation of a writer’s message, audience, and goals.

Frequently, when a book lacks textual focus, the blurred lines are a consequence of a lack of extratextual lucidity. Accordingly, my developmental services frequently begin with a series of phone calls to discuss a writer’s sense of alignment among message, audience, and goal.

These conversations are always enlightening, and by capturing a writer’s rhythm and cadence, they invaluably inform developmental work. They also set in motion the deeper, more intense, and ongoing conversation that constitutes a major part of the developmental edit.