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The Reading Room

  • Writer's pictureFallon Clark

Finding Your Right-Fit Developmental Editor

Updated: Jul 21

You're interested in developmental editing for your fiction novel or memoir because you know it can level-up your manuscript and turn your good story into a great one. Awesome! Knowing that you're ready for developmental editing is half the battle.

But you may be realizing, quickly, that finding the right-fit editor can be challenging. I mean, we're all varying shades of human, with different needs, goals, and approaches to the writing and editing processes.

Finding the right-fit developmental editor doesn't need to be complicated. At the end of the day, it means finding an editor who matches you and your story. Here's what that means:

Your Developmental Editor Should Read Novels in Your Genre.

Perhaps this should go without saying, but you, writer, should read novels in the genre in which you write. Through reading, you will instinctively pickup genre conventions and will intimately understand reader expectations even if you don't have the words to describe the 'why' behind those conventions and expectations.

Your editor is no different.

Browse your potential editor's reading list on The Storygraph (here's mine) or Goodreads, or ask them for a list of novels they've read in your genre. For example, I read mainly fiction novels that are adventurous, emotional, and dark, the majority of which are medium paced and somewhere between 300-499 pages. The genres I read most are literary fiction, science fiction, and thriller. How's that for specificity?

Not only will looking at your potential editor's reading list help you ensure an editor who reads what you write, you'll also likely a find an editor who will like reading what you write.

And that's huge.

So, be well read in your writing genre, and find a developmental editor who's well read in your genre, too. And if you need help finding a good match, just ask.

Your Developmental Editor Should Match Your Stylistic Approach to Edits.

How do you feel about redline text and in-line commentary to usher you through developmental edits? Or, would you rather have a conversation-based approach that leaves complete creative control in your hands?

Many developmental editors provide hands-on guidance within your manuscript document, a trail of breadcrumbs to follow on your revision path. And this is a great way to get in-depth developmental help and feedback on your novel. But if you find yourself leaning more toward the conversation-based approach, well, a story development coach may be a better fit for you.

A story development coach provides the same developmental edit that you'd receive from in-document redline and commentary but delivers the feedback, instead, through conversation.

If you're a self-starter who wants a fresh approach to story development, and you're interested to see what story coaching can do for you and your manuscript, well, I may be your person. Through collaborative conversation, you'll unearth the magic in your novel and level-up your own story. And you'll learn some things along the way for the next novel.

But if you'd rather have that redline, those comments, that's cool, too. You're probably not my person, but I'm happy to help you find your person.

Your Developmental Editor Should Have an Open Mind and Accept Imperfection.

I know, I know. Every writer wants to have the perfect novel after working with their editing team, starting with perfect story development.

But here's the thing: nobody is perfect.

With the exception of some overarching basics, developmental editing is a totally subjective process. If you give your manuscript to five different editors for evaluation, you will receive five different assessments and sets of recommendations.

Your developmental editor, then, must push for and celebrate progress, not perfection. And if your potential developmental editor says their approach to edits is perfect, you should just run away and hide. That's some next-level arrogance, and you probably don't need that kind of stress in your life anyway.

So, ask your potential editors about their processes and how the edits functionally will work to help you create the best story possible and take it from there.


To find your right-fit developmental editor, find someone who:

  • reads in the genre you write

  • matches your stylistic approach to edits

  • accepts imperfection to achieve progress

Have a tip to share about finding the right-fit developmental editor for you? Help your fellow writers and leave a comment below.

Fallon smiles at the camera while holding a gray coffee mug and wearing a gray tee shirt

Happy editing and writing!

❤ Fallon

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