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A Developmental Editing Rant (Sort of)

A dark pink background with red roses and sliver leaves that says a developmental editing rant.

This blog "rant" was originally posted to Instagram, but it got such a big response that I decided to share it here with my Inspiring Authorship lovelies. It isn't so much a rant as it is the truth, and it's a big thing new authors need to hear! If you'd like to see some affirming comments from actual developmental editors on this post, you can check it out here.


I have a little rant… I’m not trying to aggravate, annoy, or infuriate developmental editors, but I’m a little over how some editors do their work. Let me explain.

The work of a developmental editor is hard. I completely agree and understand. You are taking an author’s hard work and making it shine a little brighter. You are ensuring the characters remain consistent for their arc, that the world created is consistent and accurate, searching for plot holes and contradictions, and finding places where a little more flourish is necessary. You’re checking structure and flow, pacing, and so much more. Your work is hard.

But that is where it ends.

I never planned to write this post, but FOUR authors have come to me with questions about their developmental edits. They were heartbroken that the editor shredded their manuscript. Some of their books I beta read, and while there might have been a few areas that needed work, I didn’t think they deserved the “trash it and start again” approach their editor seemed to imply was necessary.

So we dug in… and discovered this shredding of the novel was entirely unnecessary. Why?

Personal opinion.

Authors, if your developmental edit comes back with very clearly opinionated revisions, you are allowed to ignore them. Actually, find another editor. It is not a developmental editor’s job to say your character’s personality is awful, and you should change it. It’s not their job to tell you the magic system you use is not what they like and you should change it to this or that.

To be clear, your editor’s opinion of your story is NOT what they are paid for (that’s an editorial review, so there’s that.) They should ensure (even if they hate your character) that she behaves consistently with her character arc. If they hate your world, they should put that aside and ensure that it is fully fleshed out, consistent, and paints a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. They don’t even have to like the story. They must only ensure it doesn’t have plot holes, inconsistencies, unwanted paradoxes, etc.

See where I’m going with this?

You are not paying for a review of your book. You are paying for someone to help you ensure it is cohesive and accurate. If your editor can’t see around personal opinions, then they should refund your money and step away. If not, then you need to fire them. This is your book and your money, and while a developmental editor’s work is hard, it does not include a personal attack on your hard work.

To be clear, I am not talking about proofreaders, line editors, or what have you. You should probably listen to them since their job is something completely different. Strictly developmental edits should be taken into consideration only if they are:

1. Not personal taste or preference in any way

2. Clearly enhance or clarify the story

3. Are consistent with the story you are trying to portray

There we go. I’d like to think developmental editors who are fantastic at their job would agree with me. If not, please consider if you allow your personal taste to slip into your work.

To put it another way, if you were a chef at a restaurant, would you tell every customer that the spaghetti dish is disgusting simply because YOU don’t like spaghetti? No, you’d make the spaghetti with the same intent to provide a quality meal as any other item on the menu. Then, you’d hand it over to the server and move on. You certainly would not go to the customer and tell them their choice of sauce is horrible, they should use parmesan instead of Ramono cheese, and they should prefer their noodles as thin instead of standard spaghetti noodles.

If you were Gordan Ramsey, maybe you would, but he’s a particular case, not the standard.

With all of that said, authors—remember this is your book. Editors—remember this isn’t YOUR book.

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