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The Developmental Editor - Hatchet man or Saviour

About a year ago, I wrote a blog saying that I had finished the first draft of my second novel, "A Remembrance of Death", and hoped to publish it during 2024. So what's been happening?

Having completed the manuscript I thought I ought to send it out to some friends and family and ask for feedback. Of course, friends and family have their own lives and the feedback came in dribs and drabs. There seemed to be a split between men and women. Men liked the story and the pace, while women tended to want more characterisation and emotional context. It was only then that I realised that I had written a story and not a novel and had that face-palm moment.

The last eight months have therefore been taken up with re-writes. These involved developing each of the characters so that the reader gets to know who they are. Some of the characters are there to be liked and others hated. Some characters grow with the story and go one a journey of discovery. As I arrived at Christmas 2023, I had completed the re-write and decided that the manuscript was now sufficiently complete to allow me to send it off to a developmental editor.

I used a developmental editor with my first novel: "Of All Faiths & None". A developmental editor is there to ensure that the book works. They will have experience in the book industry and will know what is likely to be successful and what modern publishers are looking for. They look at three main things: the structure, narrative and language. The structure of the book involves its length, order and pacing. Most modern novels that are published are less than 100,000 words in length, and while some people will tell you that the length of the book doesn't matter, the truth is that many publishers are not interested in publishing large, expansive novels, as the costs of printing these detract from their profit margin. Narrative deals with characters, major scenes and other big picture elements. In my first novel, the Battle of the Somme scene was cut down considerably as the developmental editor thought I spent too long recounting the gruesome details of the battle. They thought that the battle scenes added little to the story about the relationship of the characters, although many beta readers had commented that these scenes were some of my best writing. Language is fundamentally important as the dialogue between the characters creates the tension that makes the reader want to turn the page. Long, rambling, verbose narratives setting out the views of a character on esoteric ideas are to be avoided! Also, the developmental editor will hopefully pick up on any inconsistencies, for example, whether a character is right handed or left handed.

I think that a developmental editor is fundamental in the writing process, although there are many people who would disagree with me. Sometimes it is impossible for a writer to see the wood for the trees. As a writer I know why my characters act in the way they do, and because I know this I do not always put it down on paper . The developmental editor should pick this up and will want me to convince the reader of the motives of the characters. I am hoping to have the edited novel back by the mid February 2024, and will then need to consider and implement the amendments proposed. This is likely to take another month or so. I then arrive at the "fork in the road" stage. Whether to go the traditional publishing route or self-publish - however - that is for another blog.

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