My personal aim as a developmental editor
To create a personalized creative-writing-workshop experience for authors, using their own manuscript as the study material, so they may succeed in writing the romance story they’ve been imagining.
When you need a developmental edit
If you’ve finished your novel, but something is still missing. It’s as if you meant to build a soaring cathedral and have only managed a small suburban house. The problem is that even the most beautifully written story in the world can be unreadable if the plot is confusing and the characters unmotivated. There are two major (and equally difficult) sides to novel writing. The first is prose—strong voice, clarity, using all five senses, etc., etc.—and the second is having a solid plot with goals and obstacles. That’s where a developmental edit comes in.
How a developmental edit works in general
It will help to identify those missing “somethings” and give you the tools to figure out how to fit the building blocks of story structure together to create the novel you actually have in mind.
Practically speaking this means story revision: adding new scenes, revising and/or deleting current scenes, and changing the order of scenes. It can also mean deleting, revising, or adding subplots. There can be recommendations for revising the heroine(s) and/or hero(s) character arcs, their internal and external goals, and potential deletions or revision of minor characters.
A Three Little Words developmental edit
My developmental edit is tailored specifically for romance. I understand the particular difficulty of writing for this genre: creating believable conflict (both internal and external) that will keep apart two main characters who actually want to be together. To that end, I offer a romance specific editorial report, scene list, and plot structure documents. (I also offer three levels of developmental editing services at varying price points.)
Fifteen to thirty page Word doc, single spaced, focusing on the romance structure and character development of the heroine and hero (hero/hero or heroine/heroine), which I’ll refer to as H1/H2 from now on. (My developmental editing process has been heavily influenced by Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes and GMC Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon.)
For character development, I generate profiles of the H1 and H2, summarizing their relationships with friends and family, and major backstory events in order to help identify (or make suggestions for) their emotional issues. In addition, I create charts that help to analyze the character arc of H1 and H2, comparing/contrasting who they are at beginning of their narrative and who they must become to earn their happily ever after.
For plot structure, I examine the emotional journey of H1 and H2 by analyzing each of their subplots and events that occurred in their backstories to help with one or several of the following items.
Try to connect each subplot to the romance plot to support (in some way) H1/H2’s narrative—whether it be goal, motivation, or conflict, internal or external.
Flesh out H1/H2’s point-of-view to help make them a well-rounded character with a strong voice and the appropriate tone for whomever that character may be: Viking warrior, fifty-three-year-old fashionista, posh twenty-something.
Explore and view H1/H2’s relationships and backstory events through the lens of their emotional issue to create goals and conflict.
Further link H1/H2’s emotional issue to each of their relationships and backstory events to create believable motivation for their actions.
Search H1/H2 subplots and backstory to help in creating external goals and obstacles that ensure forward-moving and compelling scenes.
Additionally, I create an outline for possible revisions in the romance plot structure categorized by setup sequence, falling-in-love sequence, retreating-from-love sequence, and fighting-for-love sequence (AKA girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back).
Scene list and character key
This is a working document, mainly for my use, but which I share with my authors, that provides a list of all the named characters, and a list of all the chapters. These I break down into scenes, and summarize—creating metadata for the entirety of the manuscript. These chapter and scenes correspond directly to scene markers added in blue text directly into the manuscript. The scene list also contains backstory summaries of the H1/H2, which helps to outline their character profiles and identify the emotional issue. A massive benefit to the scene list is a birds-eye-view of the manuscript, allowing the author/editor to navigate the story without having to scroll through hundreds of pages of text.
Plot structure documents
Setup & fighting-for-love
The beginning and endings of all stories tend to be the most difficult to write: you’ve got to set up the beginning, deliver backstory without info dump, and lie down the basic building blocks of the entire plot; and at the end, you’ve got to refer back to the beginning of the character’s arc and show how they’ve grown, while neatly tying in all the subplots of your story—because HEA.
To help authors view the romance plot at a macro level, I compare and contrast these two mirroring sequences, which are essentially the setup and pay off of the story, and then offer detailed comments and suggestions for scene revisions and/or rewrites. I also include a setup & fighting-for-love chart, where I include little summaries of each romance beat.
Falling-in-love & retreating-from-love
The falling-in-love sequence and the retreating-from-love sequence also mirror one another; it’s the middle romance story sandwiched between the beginning and ending, where H1 and H2 fall in love despite their emotional issues and eventually fail because they have not yet grown enough emotionally.
Again, I compare and contrast these two sequences; the aim here is to view the romance story from a macro level, making it easier to figure out whether H1 and H2 are spending too much time falling in love with no kind of doubts separating them, or possibly focusing only on the negative and having no fun together. And, yes, there’s a chart, which I encourage the author to fill out this time.
The revised scene list
Using the summarized chapters from the scene list, I can show the author how my scene revisions, deletions, and rewrites would happen at a macro-level, and I also include detailed guidelines for each scene.
Follow-up editorial report
Five to fifteen pages, single spaced, Word doc that include comments on chronology and timelines, pacing and narrative shape, narrative technique—such as internal dialogue, showing vs telling—and sensitivity issues.