Publishing Behind the Scenes: Developmental Edits

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have seen my After the Book Deal posts back in 2019. As I have some new followers both here and for my newsletter (which is out today), I’m revisiting the topic of what happens behind the scenes when you’re working with a traditional publisher. It’s particularly timely for me as I’ve been going through the process again over the past few months for MY SECOND IMPRESSION OF YOU (more info on that book coming soon!).

Before my book deal, I had only a hazy idea about the steps involved in the traditional publishing process. Like, your editor gives you notes and you fix it, right? Obviously it’s more involved than that, but I didn’t really understand that there were multiple types of editing, because working with critique partners, you kind of do multiple types of edits at once (unless you specifically ask a CP/beta reader to only address one thing). But I digress…The main four steps I’m going to cover are: developmental edits, line edits, copyedits, and pass pages. As I go through them, I’ll include some examples of how they affected YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED and/or MY SECOND IMPRESSION OF YOU.

First up: developmental edits!

When you hear that an author has received an edit letter from their editor, it’s to work on their developmental edits. This is the big edit! I’ve only worked with one editor, so I can’t speak to all editorial letters, but based on what I’ve heard from other authors, they come in a variety of formats and lengths (up to 20 pages!).

My editor always starts by laying out what’s working well (very helpful so I don’t mess those things up when I start revising 😊) and then gives areas we need to address, usually with a lot of questions. I love this format, because it allows me to go through and answer the questions or make notes. Then, a few days later, we talk through everything on the phone. There will be items we’re 100 percent on the same page about, some are open-ended and I need to think through what exactly I want to do about them, and others aren’t exactly a direction I want to take, but after talking, a new solution arises.

Then it’s time to get to work! As you may expect, working through developmental edits is the longest part of the process, but there isn’t a set amount of time for every manuscript. It depends on the schedule for the book, the level of edits needed, and the author’s availability/other commitments.

So, what sorts of things do writers address in developmental edits? This is the time to hash out all of the big picture issues in the book and go deeper. And, developmental edits might require more than one round if you don’t nail them the first time. I know some authors who have done up to five rounds of developmental edits and others who’ve just needed one. For YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED, I rewrote the climax more than once. For MY SECOND IMPRESSION OF YOU, I needed to build the framework for an app Maggie uses throughout much of the book. I also added several new scenes. For both, developmental edits involved a deeper dive into my characters’ motivations and relationships.

Once the author and editor are satisfied all the big picture items have been worked through, it’s time to move on to line edits. I’ll talk about those next month. My schedule for my newsletter going forward is the second Monday of the month, so that’s when I’ll be doing the posts here as well.

If there’s anything else behind the scenes you’d like to know about the publishing process, drop your questions in the comments.

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