Developmental Editing

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There are different levels of editing a manuscript must undertake to get its best and most polished version possible. Developmental editing (also called substantive, structural, or content editing) focuses on the big picture elements of a story – its content and structure. It is the first step in editing and precedes any sentence-level work, such as copyediting and proofreading.

What will developmental editing achieve?

  • Improve your story by identifying its strengths and weaknesses
  • Provide concrete feedback to keep your readers invested in your story and rooting for your characters
  • Develop your storytelling skills and empower you as a writer
  • Take your manuscript to the next level, closer to publication

Fiction Editing

I will go through your partial or full manuscript and examine some of the following aspects:


Does it capture the readers’ interest? Is it believable and compelling enough? Are there any holes or inconsistencies? Does your conflict provide sufficient tension?

Narrative Arc

How is the novel structured and does it work? Does it have an inciting incident and resolution? Does each chapter and scene have their own ‘mini arc’ and resolution?


Are characters believable for your story? Are they compelling enough, or do they come across as weak on the page? Does each character have a different voice? Do characters have enough (but not too much) backstory and do they behave in internally consistent ways throughout the manuscript? Do they have a goal and a suitable motivation to reach that goal?

Pacing and structure

How are the chapters divided and are they at the right length (not too long or too short)? Are your chapter endings powerful enough to keep readers turning the page? Is your pacing appropriate for the story you are trying to tell – or are you at risk of losing readers’ engagement?

Voice and POV (Point of View)

Have you chosen the best POV for your story? Are there too many or not enough POVs? Does the narrator overstep what he/she should know and tell? Are there any head-hopping or inconsistencies in your narrative voice?

Setting and worldbuilding

Is your story grounded? Do you have too much description (info dumping)? Have you built a sufficient world, which readers can see and ‘feel’ – especially for fantasy and sci-fi? Do you have any holes in your world? Are you using enough of your characters and dialogue to convey a sense of setting?

Subtext and subtlety

Do you provide enough subtlety in your text (not using too many repetitions, too many adverbs etc.)? Do you trust the readers to interpret the clues given to them and see what is already implied in the text?

Genre and authorial style

Does your book fit into its genre market and norms? Does it follow genre expectations, while also being original enough? Is your writing style suitable for the genre (voice and tone)? Are you telling too much and not showing enough?

Developmental Editing Services

Story Opening 

A thorough review of your opening chapters

This service will take an in-depth look at the effectiveness of your first chapters (first 5,000 or 10,000 words). Some of the most important (and recurrent) developmental issues that arise in a manuscript are generally found in the first few chapters.

For fiction, I’ll analyze the hook, inciting incident, characterizations, voice, point(s)-of-view, and worldbuilding. For nonfiction and memoirs, I’ll examine your overall concept, narrative structure, research and examples, tone and voice. I’ll provide a summary of my findings, as well as comments and suggestions within the text.

This partial content edit is perfect for emerging writers who want feedback on their writing and aren’t ready to tackle a full manuscript edit. It’s also ideal for experienced writers trying something new (such as a new genre, a new series, etc.) or who want to (re)assess their writing skills.

writing plume editorial

“Sarah did an incredible job getting me through my first major revision. She tactfully identified issues with my pacing and where my writing lacked clarity. She sent me a PDF of her overall notes and critiques but also worked directly in the text identifying areas of improvement as we approached them. She’s professional, efficient, and was an absolute joy to work with!”

B. G. Cane

YA Fiction Author (Sci-Fi)

typewriter plume editorial

“Working with Sarah on my first memoir was an absolute pleasure. Her coaching not only helped build my identity as an author, but also pushed me to be more intentional in my word choice. Her editing allowed me to cut down pages and pages of useless words in order to focus on the core of the story – a powerful writing style that I discovered with her. Sarah’s patience and genuine interest in my vision of the book was an important ingredient to the success of my book. I hope to be privileged enough to work with her again on my second book.”

Ngọc (Bi) Nguyễn, Author (Memoir)

Weird Culture Kids, New Degree Press

Full Developmental Edit

A developmental edit of your full manuscript, customizable to your needs and writing level

A full developmental edit is the most extensive and comprehensive service I offer. It aims to highlight the most important developmental issues in your manuscript, as well as some minor ones. You can choose between one or two rounds of edits. My Book Coaching service allows you to create or revise your story with my support and guidance, at your own pace.

My process for one round of editing:

I’ll read your manuscript once and take notes as I go. Then I’ll read it a second time, adding comments and suggestions to the manuscript. Although it’s called an “edit”, I won’t make changes myself (such as deleting a section, moving, or rewriting parts) but I’ll point out areas for improvement. I’ll also write an editorial revision letter outlining the major points of concern and suggestions on how to resolve them. Some rewriting or restructuring should be expected after a developmental edit.

Choose between Developmental Editing (completed manuscript) or Book Coaching (at any stage of your writing journey).

A developmental edit is a wonderful tool for improving your story and writing skills. It’s for anyone who wants in-depth guidance on their manuscript.

At a glance

novel opening

Story Opening & Outline

A thorough review of your opening chapters or outline

What’s included:

  • In-text comments and annotations, using tracked changes
  • Brief written feedback, with what’s effective and less effective, with practical suggestions
  • Submitted as one package to the writer (one round of edits)


First Chapters or Outline:        5,000 words – $275 / €250


Completion in 2 weeks (starting after a timeline has been agreed upon and full payment is received).

light developmental edit

Developmental Editing

In-depth content editing of your completed manuscript

What’s included:

  • An editorial revision letter (3-5 pages), including what’s effective and less effective, with practical suggestions
  • In-text comments and annotations, using tracked changes
  • Submitted as one package to the writer (one round of edits)
  • Ask for a second round of edits (15% discount)
  • Up to 1 hour follow-up guidance by email or video/audio call

Fill out the quote form below for a personalized quote.

Add-on: Author Bio and Book Description Review.


Completion in 6-8 weeks for up to 90,000 words (starting after a timeline has been agreed upon and 50% of the payment is received). Inquire for longer manuscripts.

full developmental edit

Book Coaching

Mixing coaching and editing – create or revise at your own pace

What’s included in the Monthly Plans:

  • Program onboarding/discovery call
  • Chapter submissions
  • In-text comments and annotations, using tracked changes
  • Written summary for each submission highlighting your strengths and weaknesses
  • One or two video/audio coaching calls per month, depending on the plan, to discuss the feedback and brainstorm ideas
  • Email support

Basic (10K/month)

2 x 5K + 1 Call: $550 / €500

Medium (15K/month)

3 x 5K + 1 Call: $700 / €650

Extra (20K/month)

4 x 5K + 2 Calls: $850 / €800

ask for a quote plume editorial

Ask for a quote

Developmental Editing 

Every manuscript is different – I operate on a project basis and tailor these services to your needs and the stage you’re at in your writing. Please fill out the form below, explaining what your story is about, the genre, word count, and the specific services you are seeking. I’ll respond with a few questions to establish our fit, usually within 3 business days. To establish a quote for a developmental edit, I’ll need to see your completed full manuscript and a book blurb or synopsis.


Other Editorial Services

Manuscript Assessment

A structural report, giving you feedback on your manuscript

picto book

Agent Submission Critique

A review of your query letter, synopsis and the first three chapters

picto computer book

Author Coaching & Consulting

Literary coaching and publishing consulting for self-published authors