Your manuscript is your baby.

You’ve nurtured it with your life-blood. It is your heart and soul. Before you send it out into the world, you’d like another set of eyes to go through it and pronounce it perfect. A professional editor can give you an objective review and make your work really sing.

There are four stages of editing – Developmental or structural edit, line edit, copyedit and proofreading. We have already discussed the most often used forms – Line and Copy Editing. In this post, we will talk of Developmental or Structural Editing, Manuscript Assessment and Beta Reading and Proofreading.

I'm all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. - Truman Capote Share on X

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is the first and often a very important step when it comes to editing. It focuses on the big picture of your story – the structure of your manuscript. In order to tell your story, you need a coherent structure, an emotional appeal to engage your audience and a sense of narrative.

A developmental editor aims at creating consistency in:

  • Plot: whether your basic story follows a coherent and clear flow.
  • Pacing: the rhythm at which events follow throughout the story.
  • Characters: are they strong, engaging and hence memorable?
  • Setting: the period and geography which forms a backdrop and sets the mood for the narrative.
  • Perspective: whether it is consistent and clear as to whose perspective is being narrated – the author’s or the character’s.
  • Inconsistencies: holes in the plot which jump from the first event to the third or fourth one
  • Timing: of the events in the novel match up.
  • Treatment: enhancing or diluting the humour, for instance, or introducing mystery, action or horror as a style component to improve the story

Developmental editing is most suitable for new writers or for writers working on a complex manuscript. A good developmental editor helps refine your plot structure. They would tighten and polish the story until it reads perfectly and is engaging. This allows the author to focus on the details of the story. After all, you cannot enjoy a beautiful house if the blueprints and foundations are haphazard and illogical!

Developmental editing may entail major changes in your manuscript; you may need to add or subtract chapters, move them around or alter the sequence of events. Hence, processes like line editing, copyediting and proofreading always follow after.

A developmental editor not only builds upon what the author has already thought of but would often also suggest what more can be added to make the story better. A developmental editor is not limited by what is, they are driven by what can be.

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. - Arthur Plotnik Share on X

Manuscript Assessment or Beta Reading

Beta reading, also called manuscript assessment or critique is where an editor reads your manuscript and submits a Beta Reading report. The report can vary in depth of detail but is majorly done as a test reading where the editor points out areas of improvement and the overall feel of your story. Once this is done the author can go ahead and make the necessary changes. Some editors may treat beta reading as the initial process after which developmental edit can start.

The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda, of Simon and Schuster while writing my first book. ‘Finish your first draft and then we’ll talk,’ he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.

~ Dominick Dunne


Proofreading happens after the final copy of the edited manuscript has been typeset. Hence, it is a very different process from all editing work.

A professional proofreader is required to check for quality before the book goes into mass publication. He or she compares this final copy or proof with the original edited copy which includes all the formatting, page numbers, headers, etc. to make sure that there are no errors are introduced during formatting or printing, like omissions, missing pages or awkward page breaks.

A proofreader may do a few light edits to spellings but if there are too many errors the proof is returned for copyediting.

No author dislikes being edited as much as he dislikes not to be published. - J. Russell Lynes Share on X

How Should You Hire an Editor?

The first step is to decide which kind of editing your manuscript needs.

Of the four stages or perhaps five, if you include beta reading, you can choose if you want to pay for specific edits only or if you feel the whole package deal would be best for your manuscript.

The best idea is to send the manuscript for Beta Reading. Once you’ve had an expert assess your manuscript, you can tweak and rework your manuscript. After that, you can go for the editing you want.

Many authors feel that after a thorough developmental edit, which is also the most expensive of all, there is little or no requirement for a line or copyedit. While choosing just one or the other may save cost, your manuscript may be riddled with grammatical errors or inconsistencies in character or settings which can adversely affect your book reviews.

How Many Editors Should You Hire?

Many developmental editors do not offer copyediting and proofreading as it requires a separate set of technical skills. However, it can be great if you find an editor that offers a complete editing package. Having the same editor from the development to final finishes touches promotes greater synchronization between the author and editor which results in an excellent final manuscript.

Which kind of editing have you usually chosen for your manuscripts? How has your experience been? Do you have any tips for newbie writers?