She Writes Press is offering three tracks to writers who submit their work to us, and quite a few people have asked me to clarify what the various tracks offer, which is, in essence, the difference between a proofread, a copyedit, or a developmental edit. So I’m starting today with a look at Track 3—Developmental Editing and Coaching.
Developmental editing is about the big picture: structure, character development, and prose. At SWP, we are offering authors an opportunity to be in a coaching relationship with their developmental editor, based on the successful model I’ve been using with writers since I started coaching in 2007. (This is the process Kamy is about to enter into starting next week!)
Partnering with a developmental editor who’s coaching you through your writing is an intensive process, one in which you’re both dedicated to your creative process. Many of the writers I’ve worked with over the years have compared getting coached to getting a crash course in an MFA. You work chapter-by-chapter through your manuscript, combing through and discussing what’s working and what needs improvement. As you work, you start to see your tendencies as a writer, things you may have been blind to, or simply unaware of. I’ve worked with writers who've struggled with point of view, flat prose, character inconsistencies, taking on too much—you name it. When they start to see what’s missing or certain trends in their style, it all of a sudden opens them up. They become more aware, more sophisticated, more polished, more publishable!
This process is about more than coming out the other end with a good book. Every author I’ve ever worked with has also improved as a writer, and the impact on their subsequent books has been profound. Many profess they would never write without a coach again.
I think a lot of us believe writing is or should be a natural talent, and that you’ve either got it or you don’t. We know it’s hard work, but we can be a little smitten with our own words and our own process (just as often as we’re frustrated!). Opening yourself up to working with someone in a collaborative process will change the way you write. We established Track 3 for those authors whose work needs a little extra something. Working with a coach is an opportunity to find out what is going to take your manuscript or your writing from “fine” to amazing.
A developmental editor is a collaborative partner. Because they’re removed, they will see things you can’t because you’re too close to the story. They may sometimes guide you in a direction you might not have considered. Ultimately, they will defer to your choices, but they also need to be someone you can trust, who hopefully pushes back occasionally and has an opinion about your work.
If you’re interested in working with a developmental editor, I have another blog post here about the process and how to work with someone. SWP offers coaching and developmental services to any writer who's interested. You don’t have to submit to the press to work with one of our experienced coaches.