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.
We all experience writer’s block from time to time. It might be a novel. It might be a technical report. It might be a research paper. Maybe you are tired. Maybe you are uninspired. Maybe you are lacking confidence. Whatever the project and whatever the reason, you just can’t get the first few words down on paper.
That’s when a beta reader comes in. Beta reading is common in small online communities, from writing clubs to fanfiction groups. Your beta reader could be a stranger across the country hopping onto your Google Doc and looking for grammatical errors, or they could be your best friend crossing out half of your story in red pen.
Not all great hits in the world of publishing and storytelling start off with a bang. In fact, many well-known authors had ideas upon ideas for their stories, characters, and voices that were scrapped before their final drafts were produced—final drafts that might be surprising in comparison to the original ideas from which they developed.