Over the past month I’ve been working through the developmental editing process for my sci-fi novel Human Resources. This week I reached a milestone with my editor; he gave our updated outline the green light, freeing me to start work on rewriting pages!
What is a developmental edit?
Let me include a description of the process from the Inkshares blog:
The first round of notes is what we call “story architecture” and it’s the first part of the developmental process. It focuses on a series of high-level structural notes that discuss the: 1) the core of the story, 2) main arcs and characters, and 3) the unexplored, negative space of the story. Classical developmental editorial tends to focus on honing the present version of the story. By contrast, this architectural round asks not what the story is, but what it could be. It throws wrenches, offers zigs rather than zags, and explores the unwritten negative space to mine potential. Not every story goes through this process, but many do, and some of our most successful stories have changed significantly during this process. Depending on how extensive the notes are on this process, it can take three months or longer.
During this process, the developmental editor worked with me on testing the architecture of the draft novel. He challenged many aspects of the story, working collaboratively with me to address any issues identified.
To kick off the process, my editor read the draft manuscript in its entirety. They then put together a series of notes (thirteen pages of them) and line comments on the manuscript itself. This represented our starting point, and once I’d read through the feedback, we had a direct chat to discuss and make sure we were on the same page.
After the initial notes, the process shifted gears to an iterative cycle. I wrote a detailed outline for the novel — acts, chapters, scenes (with detailed scene notes). We then collaborated on this document — outline, feedback, discussion, new outline, feedback…. and so on.
The process was difficult at times, as it required me to challenge, and in some cases change, key aspects of the novel. My editor didn’t let me off the hook with weak justifications, but neither did I feel like I lost control of the work. The process was collaborative, and the changes my own creation. In the end the book will be stronger than ever, and I’m thrilled.
Everything, and nothing. The changes we have agreed include a substantial restructure of events, primarily in the first and second acts. We’ve dropped several characters who weren’t contributing to the story and removed plot points which were becoming a distraction. We’ve made sure as events culminate in the third act both the objectives and stakes are clearer, and that events converge on a more climactic point. The themes of the book have been tightened, and events more closely aligned to the core story. What hasn’t changed, is the core premise and scenario. For those who have read my excerpts online and pre-ordered the novel, I’m confident you’ll get the story you are expecting.
I’ve jumped into the rewrite process, starting with a revamped prologue. Once the updated draft is complete, it will get dissected by an editor again, but this time looking at a different layer of detail. The amount of work ahead is a little intimidating, but I’m excited to get started and looking forward to getting the finished product to you.