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Developmental Editing vs Copy Editing: Are They Substitutes?

Developmental Editing vs Copy Editing Are They Substitutes 1

Developmental Editing vs. Copy Editing: Are They Substitutes?

by Tara Khandelwal

Done with the first draft of your book? Congratulations! We know how hard it is to persevere and finish an entire manuscript!  You may be wondering what to do next. Is it time to pitch it to publishers? Should you get it read by beta readers? 

Among editors, there is a clear consensus a which edit should come in which order. The Bound team agree! Forsake the order at your own peril.

Here’s how we advise you should go about things once you are done with your first draft. Editing is rewriting. Put your first draft aside for a few weeks. Then look at it again with a fresh pair of eyes, with your reader’s hat on. 

Step 1: Developmental Edit

It’s important to first look at the book as a whole – to see what works and what doesn’t. That’s the agenda of a developmental edit. Also called a substantive or a structural edit. 

Which elements work? Are there scenes that drag? Is there a character that just doesn’t work? Do we need more of one character, and less of another? Are things getting repetitive? Are there unnecessary descriptions? Do all the plot points tie together? These are the big picture questions you examine during a developmental edit.

Step 2: Line Edit

After the developmental edit, one usually goes on to do a line edit. This is where you go through the building blocks of your book: sentences. Go through each line of your book to make sure you are conveying your thoughts in the best way you can. The goal is to ensure your writing flows, is concise, coherent and is pleasurable to read.

Step 3: Copy Edit

In this round of editing, you will polish the final version of your book. After you have finalised its structure, language and content, you will concentrate on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting. The goal is to create a high-quality, finished piece that is ready to be published!

Can you mix up the order?

We recommend you get a developmental edit first and then a copy edit. And the two are not interchangeable – here’s why:

In your first round of edits, you must nail down the story, characters and plot. When you zoom out, you can check if the elements of your story work together. Post this your copy edit will be more effective because then your job goes from big picture thinking, to looking at the details.

You could consider combining the line and copy edit stages. However, several rounds of edits can help you avoid the slush pile.

Unsure of how to go ahead? Think you need help editing your book? Get in touch with our experienced team of editors at Bound. Explore our range of editorial services.

About the author

Tara Khandelwal is an editor and writer. She is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University and the Columbia Publishing Course. She currently works with Asia’s largest literary agency, Writers’ Side. She has worked with Penguin, BloombergQuint, SheThePeople.TV and more. She is the founder of Bound which provides skill building for creatives through writers’ retreats, workshops, writing coaching and editorial services.

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