Rather than go through the sometimes tedious process of asking questions and making suggestions, we are tempted to just tell the author what to do to make the story better—or, at least, make it better to us. And that is the one thing we must not do.
Authors and editors of children’s and young adult books have an important job: not only do they need to resonate with adult readers, but they also need to connect with young readers. As editors, we need to help authors find the “turn the page” moments within their manuscripts—the moments that completely grab the reader and make it impossible for them to put the book down. These moments make a book compulsively readable. Regardless of the genre, we need to tease out these moments in every book that we edit.
Many writers often ask how their first draft gets turned into a polished manuscript that is ready for publication. This first step is called the developmental edit, which takes place after the text has been completed. Most people think of editing as just grammar, punctuation, and proofreading, but those are more line level elements; developmental editing, or substance editing as it’s sometimes called, is all about the content: the meat of the story and what form it will take by the time it reaches readers. This is the phase where we analyze characters, plot, setting, and even the pace of the story. These are the big issues that require the use of three techniques to help refine the story: growing, pruning, and shaping.
Whether you specialize in developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, or some combination of the three, there are a few great online platforms you can use to kickstart or revamp your freelance career.
In the developmental editing process, you might notice an author relying on similar images and words that are repeated every so often throughout the manuscript. As editors, we can facilitate and expand the growth of our authors’ prose through poetry to inspire fresh language and images. By encouraging the author to read poetry for specific craft skills and ideas, they can translate what the poets are doing to their prose writing, and add more diverse elements to their style.
I wish I had learned about the connection between editing and revising sooner. I fell in love with revision and realized that my passion is in helping other writers create their best work. Revising helped me realize that I want to work in the publishing industry; I just wish these connections were made clearer in high school. I would have realized my passion much sooner.