Developmental Editing

developmental editing creates an impactAfter you finish the first draft of a manuscript, you need to edit your book. There are multiple phases in the editing process. You start by looking at your book as a whole, then move on to reading the manuscript line by line, and finish by correcting the errors and typos. Each step requires different experts trained in their area. I’d recommend that you hire independent professionals for each phase so you can get several fresh sets of eyes on your book. Start with developmental editing and be prepared for a shift in viewpoint.

What is developmental editing?

Developmental editing will vary depending on the type of book that you’re writing. If you’re penning a novel or a memoir, this kind of editing would include pointing out poor character development, unrealistic or confusing dialogue, continuity issues, plot holes, and other big-picture items.

If you’re writing a business book, the focus will be more on consistency of message and facts. Your editor will make sure that the message on page 10 matches that on page 199.

Once you get back the initial developmental edit, you’ll probably need to do some rewriting. This is why you always want to do the developmental editing prior to line editing and proofreading. There’s no sense in tidying up the typos before you do the rewrites.

Have the right attitude

the ghostwriter's process requires the client to be open and honestYou must be patient and open during this process. You’ll be looking at the manuscript as a whole and focusing on the big ideas to make sure the main pieces of the story work well. This isn’t a time to zero in on details.

A lot of new authors dread developmental editing because they don’t want to face making big cuts or major changes. This is part of the reason why it is important to hire an outside editor. A first-time writer might be a little too close to the project to be objective. It’s tough to scrap a character because he doesn’t have a real purpose or delete a scene that fails to propel the story forward.

When you undergo a developmental edit, be prepared to make some large changes to your manuscript. You might need to shift your viewpoint a bit and let go of some pages, replacing them with new ones. You can’t be a successful author while clutching every word you write to your bosom.

 

A good developmental editor is worth her weight in gold. She will help you get your book ready to publish, and her notes will strengthen your manuscript in ways you wouldn’t have been able to imagine. Sure, she might not be your best friend at first, but trust me, you’ll thank her when you’re done.

For more articles about writing a book, please check out these articles:

Writing a Memoir: Know Your Story

How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

Writing Great Dialogue

Different Kinds of Editors

And if you’re in the market to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

Common Word Errors — Part 1

Every writer battles common word errors. You know the words I mean.

These trouble words can lead to nightmare scenarios that are enough to keep some people from ever writing. Imagine your embarrassment when you find out the query letter you sent to an agent was riddled with common word errors. Or your chagrin when you learn about all your mistakes from various poor reviews after you finally publish your first book on Amazon.

As a writer, you know the power of words. The words you choose leave a lasting impression on your reader. You want the impression to be good, but the incorrect use of words can spoil the effect you work so hard to create.

Unfortunately, common word errors happen more often than would be expected, especially in these days of self-publishing, when some authors cut costs by skipping the editing phase of a book project. Learning how to edit your own manuscript is key to minimizing common word errors.

I’ll be discussing various kinds errors in this series, but in this article I wanted to zero in on homonyms.

Tricky homonyms

Homonyms are two or more words that sound the same (and are sometimes spelled the same), but they have different meanings. When you fully understand each word, and the differences between the homonyms becomes clear, then it’s easier to use them correctly. Here are a half-dozen of my favorite trouble words.

There or Their or They’re?

common word errorsThese three words mean completely different things:

There indicates a location: Put the pot of petunias there.

Their shows possession by people or things previously mentioned: Put their pot of petunias there.

They’re is a contraction ofthey are”: They’re putting their pot of petunias there.

Tip: If your trouble word involves a contraction, try expanding it out into two words. For example: “they’re” becomes “they are.” It can help you determine the correct choice.

It’s or Its?

This one is probably top on the list of common word errors. The confusion lies in the apostrophe. That mark is used to indicate either missing letters (a contraction) or a possession. In this case, the apostrophe signals a contraction.

It’s means “it is,” as in: It’s a beautiful rose.

Its indicates that something belongs to “it”: It’s a beautiful rose that lost its petals.

Again, if you expand “its” into two words you can quickly see if the contraction or the possessive is the right choice. For example:

The child stood on its (or it’s) head.

Expanding out the contraction, you’d get:

The child stood on it is head.

Nope! That makes no sense. Must be:

The child stood on its head.

Your or You’re?

The misuse of these homonyms leads to funny statements. Your indicates that something belongs to “you.” And you’re is a contraction of “you are.”

For instance, there is a big difference between:

Your dinner!

And

You’re dinner!

The first one means you’re about to eat, and the other means that you won’t be around long enough to worry about grammar anymore.

Than or Then?

Then is used in relation to time, while than is used to show a comparison.

So, you’d say:

Barry went to lunch at noon. I’d like to go then.

Or

I’d rather go to lunch with Barry than later at 2pm.

Now, it can get really confusing if you’re comparing two time periods, as in:

I’d rather go then than then.

But that’s a different story…

Farther or Further?

Both words indicate distance, but it’s the quality of the distance that makes it tricky.

Farther indicates physical distance, whereas further implies a more figurative concept of distance.

So, you’d say:

I’m farther down the road than she is.

And

I’m further along in the book than he is.

Tip: Farther has the word “far” inside it. This can help you remember that it has to do with physical distance.

I hope this helps make it far more clear so it won’t give you further difficulty.

Complement or Compliment?

Sometimes, it’s just one little letter that makes all the difference.

To compliment is to praise something or someone and to complement is to complete or enhance.

So, you’d say:

He complimented her on her new dress.

Or

He complemented her so well they got married.

Remember that scene from Jerry McGuire?

“You complete me.”

“Shut up, you had me at hello.”

Yes, they complemented each other nicely. No compliments necessary.

As you can see, understanding the meaning of the words helps in choosing the right ones so that you can avoid common word errors in your writing. If you find these confusing, I recommend keeping a little journal of your personal trouble words so that you can refer to them whenever needed.

If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, but don’t know how, please check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.