Posted by: nancycurteman | October 19, 2010

Developmental Editing: How to do it

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Developmental Editing deals with a novel as a whole and in large chunks while line editing looks at smaller bits (see my previous posting on How to  Edit a Novel). Developmental Editing includes plotting, pacing, characterization and narrative structure. Here are some Checkpoints to use when you want to perfect your novel using Developmental Editing:

1. As a first step, brutally cut superfluous scenes or even chapters throughout the book. This will save the time you might have wasted editing sections you ended up cutting anyway.

2. Does your novel start in the right place? You may have to cut or move scenes or paragraphs that cloud the beginning of your story.

3. Make certain your novel opens with a strong sentence that hooks readers.

4. Don’t hesitate to reposition or cut scenes and chapters to improve plotting.

5. Examine all your characters carefully. Be sure you’ve developed them enough so they are not only believable but come alive.

6. Check to see that your characters’ growth and actions are realistic.

7. Consider expanding great scenes and chapters.

8. Add new material as needed to refine and enhance the story.

Special note: Whenever you cut scenes and chapters from your novel, store them in a file. You may add them back to your novel later or use them in a future book.

Photo: Shiny 1

Other writing tips:

9 Ways to Create Tension in a Mystery Novel Global Mysteries

4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”
How Do Conflict and Crisis Differ in a Mystery Novel?
How Important is Conflict in a Mystery Story?
How to Create Minor Characters in Your Mystery Novel
Pacing: A Critical Element in the Mystery Novel
What is Literary Style?
What is Theme in Literature?
7 Murder Weapons That Will Challenge The Cleverest Sleuth
7 Characteristics of Today’s Modern Mystery Novels
Developing Characters is No Mystery
Author’s Voice: How to find it?
What is Story Structure?


  1. More excellent points. I keep saying there’s a book in your blog. I will wait in anticipation for it.


    • There may be a book if I can figure out the best way to do it. Thanks for your encouragement.


  2. Thank you for this great advice on developmental editing. Your thoughts help me decide what to do next before I consider the query. Thank you for sharing…


    • Carol,
      I’ll be looking forward to seeing your novel in print.


  3. All good points . . . especially making the major cuts before getting down to the nitty gritty of line editing.

    Big time saver, that.


  4. After the first draft, I went back and shuffled scenes like a deck of cards to get the right feeling to the beginning of my story. I also had to inspect emotional reactions and character motives. I’m glad I did that first and line editing second. It saved me a lot of time and heart ache, because I wasn’t as attached by the polishing process to that first version.


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