Developmental editors need training - my gripe with some developmental editors.
Developmental editors need training.

Here’s my gripe with some of my fellow developmental editors. Before I went anywhere near my first client, I made sure I had plenty of training.

And that training was on the back of decades of giving feedback to fiction writers in writing groups. Plus reviewing for a popular Scottish website.

So, when I encounter editors who offer this service without training, I get pretty pissed. Because this is not some glorified beta read.

Just because you have opinions about fiction doesn’t mean you’re qualified to charge money for a critique. Copyediting fiction doesn’t make you automatically qualified to developmentally edit a novel. If you expect clients to pay you for these services, the least you can do is make sure you’ve actually studied and your work is vetted by an expert.

Your client is not just paying for the editing you’re doing, they’re also paying for your expertise, which in part comes from your training. Training you should have invested in.

But I get the distinct impression some people are downloading manuscript critique templates and reading a book or two. Then, off they go.

You don’t know what you don’t know

I cannot imagine having this level of entitlement. The problem with learning a new subject is you don’t know how much you don’t know. Initially you might feel you’re learning a lot. Then there comes the point where the horizons of your new subject shoot out into the distance and you suddenly realise how much more you have to learn.

It’s a little lesson in humility. But if you’re too dumb to study in the first place, you might not get that lesson. At least, not until a more experienced client slaps you in the face with your own failings.

Fledgling proofreaders are warned to make sure they’re properly trained (at least in the UK). Yet the same concern for standards is completely absent for developmental editing. Which is considerably more expensive than proofreading.

Recommended training courses

Here are some recommended developmental editing courses:

The three beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in full developmental editing formerly available from the Editorial Freelancers Association and now available from the Club Ed site. The tutor is Jennifer Lawler. The great thing about Jennifer’s advanced course is you get to do a full edit of a novel with track commenting which she reviews. She also offers more courses through her site, Club Ed.

The Introduction to Developmental Editing at the Author-Editor Clinic focuses more on manuscript critiques. The tutor, Barbara Sjoholm, takes you through the different elements of a critique letter. I really enjoyed this course. I think I was one of only about two students in that particular round of the course who opted to do the harder final assessment – a full manuscript critique of the novel I’d used for the course. There was an easier assignment, but I didn’t pay $399 or whatever not to have my work fully checked.

Liminal Pages offers two courses in developmental editing – Theory and Practical. The tutor is Sophie Playle and this course, unlike the others, is in the UK.

There’s also a course on book mapping from the Editorial Freelancers Association. This involves using Excel spreadsheets to analyse books scene by scene. It allows for detailed digging into a manuscript.

There are other courses too, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with. They’re also the best for anyone thinking of getting into this field and authors should look for editors who’ve invested in courses like these.

At some point in the near future I will review these courses for anyone who might be interesting in taking them. I enjoyed all of them and would recommend them to others.