When an author’s work isn’t ready for development

What do you do if an author has a manuscript isn’t ready for development—where you can’t find the plot or the ms has other really significant problems?

A developmental edit is for a manuscript that generally contains a clear plot, at least somewhat developed characters, in a setting that makes sense. You typically wouldn’t perform a full developmental edit on a manuscript that doesn’t even have a plot.

Sometimes authors will follow some characters around for a while without creating a plot, or they’re so focused on conveying a message that they lose track of the need to develop characters that we care about, or they’ll have other really big problems that don’t need a full developmental edit to solve, they just need some basic feedback on fundamental storytelling techniques.

Some editors will send such an author a few resources to help them understand why their ms isn’t ready for a developmental edit and that’s perfectly fair. I tend to be a little more mercenary, so if someone has a story problem and they want to pay me to help them figure it out, I’ll help them figure it out.

Often this will be a manuscript evaluation, if the ms is in good enough shape and the author has enough skill that some overall feedback about what’s going wrong is all they need.

Other times I’ll offer coaching to help them understand how to put a story together from the very beginning. We start with their concept and then work out from there.

Some dev editors just do dev editing, and that’s fair, but I like to have some variety in my work so I always welcome the chance to do some coaching.

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