Hiring a developmental editor is a major step in the novel writing process. It can lead to the most rewarding and exhilarating creative partnership you’ve ever experienced. But it can also feel intimidating, even overwhelming, especially if you’ve never worked with an editor before.
How do you know when you’re ready for developmental editing? And when will you get the most out of working with an editor?
Your writing process begins alone. It’s just you, the blank page, and your quest to get your story out of your head and onto the paper.
Eventually, though, you’ll reach a point when it’s time to involve someone else in the process. After all, you didn’t put all that work into writing your book so that you could be the only person who ever reads it!
This is where professional editing comes in. A developmental editor’s feedback can help you take that messy first draft (or let’s be honest, sometimes the messy second or third draft) and turn it into a publishable novel.
But hiring a professional editor can be a daunting step. There’s the cost, for one: writing your first draft might not cost you any money, but hiring an editor is a financial investment.
And working with an editor can feel very vulnerable. You’re sharing your story, all its beauty and its imperfections, with an expert in writing, and trusting that they’ll be not just helpful, but kind.
No wonder writers are often nervous about hiring an editor for the first time!
When, then, should you hire an editor?
When is it worth it to make that financial investment and take that risk of vulnerability?
When will you and your manuscript most benefit from a professional editor’s feedback?
Here’s the easiest, most straightforward answer:
You’re Ready to Hire a Developmental Editor When . . .
You are ready to work with a developmental editor when you have a finished first draft of your book.
When you have written all the way from the opening scene to the resolution of your story, you are ready to work with a developmental editor.
At this stage, the full scope of your idea is on the page. It’s far from perfect, and you can probably think of a hundred changes you’d like to make. But it’s there—beginning, middle, and end.
That means that your editor will be able to understand the whole of your story. They won’t just see the start; they’ll see where you’re taking it, how you want the story to develop and resolve.
With that full picture, they’ll be able to give you advice that’s in line with your intentions for your book as a whole.
Some writers prefer to wait to hire an editor until after they’ve self-edited their second or even third draft. You might already be able spot a whole list of things you’d like to change without anyone else even glancing at your draft.
If you’re an experienced writer—that is, if this isn’t your first book and you’ve worked with a developmental editor before—you may make significant progress by self-editing your second draft. Then, once you’ve polished your manuscript to the best of your ability, a developmental editor can help you take it even farther.
But if you’re working on your first book, I highly recommend hiring an editor after your first draft. Your editor will help you focus on the most important changes so you don’t get distracted by edits that won’t help your book. Plus, the story principles you’ll learn from your editor will make editing your second draft—and even writing your next novel!—easier and more fun.
And if you’re nervous about sharing that messy first draft with a professional editor, don’t worry. Editors never expect perfection. (If writers wrote perfect first drafts, I’d be out of a job!) Your editor has worked with many first drafts before and is happy to help you reach into a mess of words and find a compelling story.
But what if you haven’t yet finished your book? Or maybe you’re past the first draft stage? Can a developmental editor still help you?
If You’re Not Quite Finished With Your First Draft
Let’s face it: writing a book is hard. You begin with seemingly infinite motivation and inspiration. But after a few weeks or months, probably about two-thirds of the way through your book, those galvanizing feelings fade.
And what’s left is the grind of work—or worse, writer’s block.
Sure, a finished first draft would be nice. But you’re stuck now, many chapters away from “The End.”
Can a developmental editor help? Yes!
While they won’t yet be able to give you the holistic feedback you’ll receive on a finished draft, they can help you get to a finished draft so you’re ready for editing. They can help you troubleshoot your writing process, set goals to finish, and even tap into your inspiration again so you can finish strong.
Then, when your first draft is ready for editing, you’ll have a relationship with your editor already established, and sending them your manuscript might not feel so scary after all.
If You’re on a Third Draft or Beyond
You wrote a first draft. You edited the second draft. Now what?
First off, congratulations! That’s no mean feat, especially since editing can be even harder than writing the first draft.
Can you still benefit from working with a developmental editor? Definitely.
By this stage, you’ve put your very best into your book. You’ve taken the story as far as you can with your own imagination, creativity, and story instinct.
A developmental editor will help you take your book beyond your current writing ability. They’ll show you what’s working and what’s not, and give you expert advice to fix the problems you’re stuck on and the problems you didn’t even see.
No matter how many times you revise your manuscript yourself, you’ll always benefit from feedback. After all, you don’t want the first feedback you receive to be in an Amazon review!
And the best feedback you can get is from a developmental editor, a story expert who can give you targeted feedback that will help you get your book publication-ready as quickly as possible.
If you’ve made it to your third draft or even beyond without the help of a developmental editor, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
Then, reach out to a developmental editor to make your next draft even better.
What Writing Stage are You in Right Now?
Are you working your way to the end of your first draft? Finished your first draft and wondering what comes next? Edited a draft or two on your own and wanting to get publication-ready?
No matter where you are in the writing process, at some point you’ll benefit from developmental editing.
Take a moment now to think about what the best next step for your book will be. Where would developmental editing fit?
And if you’re ready for editing, or you think you might be someday, click here and send me a note.
I’d love to hear about your story and help you turn it into an amazing book.