Editing Services


What is “developmental editing”?

Developmental editing, sometimes referred to as substantive editing, evaluates a manuscript from a broad basis—concept, organization and design—and analyzes specific parts of a manuscript—chapters, scenes, paragraphs, sentences and even words.  The intention is to render improvement in the dramatic power of a manuscript in relation to its target audience.

In contrast, copy editing or line editing is mostly concerned with grammar, spelling, punctuation, improper word choice or usage, and other errors of mechanics.  I do not copy edit, but I am happy to refer clients to copy editors.

Works edited: 

I edit all types of fiction.  In non-fiction, I only edit memoir and autobiography. I do not edit screenplays, short stories or poetry, even though I greatly enjoy writing them.

My Philosophy:

Writers are individuals with distinct voices and a unique story to tell. They enter the literary domain with varying levels of technical skill. The author’s individual journey should be respected by an editor. A good developmental editor will give specific feedback for immediate improvement of a manuscript, listen to the author’s vision and help further it, and offer insightful responses to the reading. I believe in working together “with” the author, whether he or she is new to the craft or proficient.

The Developmental Editing Process:

The manuscript is read in entirety and critiqued (specifics to follow).  A written report is generated that details both positive attributes (what is working) and offers suggestions for immediate improvement (what is weak or not working).  In addition, up to 100 pages of the manuscript will be annotated to provide examples that the author can follow in the revision process.  I am also available for a follow-up consultation by phone or email to answer any questions.

Elements critiqued in the report:

Character Analysis:  Character sketches of the main characters and important secondary characters are evaluated for strength of portrayal.  This includes wardrobe, important physical features, consistent and believable dialogue and vocabulary, and consistency of character traits (and character flaws), personality, mannerisms, and emotions.  The character arc is very important; evaluation includes an examination of the outward desire as well as the inner journey (internal and external conflicts) and motivation of the main character.  An evaluation of backstory and connections with other characters is also reviewed and suggestions for improvement are offered.

Setting:  Is it vivid, and does it portray the character (for personal spaces, such as bedrooms, living rooms, etc.)?

Sensory Details:  Are these used throughout the story, and are they used well?

The Opening:  Does the opening command attention?

Tension & Suspense:  Is there enough tension, and is it consistent enough to pull the reader through the book.  Are the turning points and pivotal scenes strong?  Any sagging places will be noted, and suggestions for improvement will be offered.

Point-of-View:  Is the POV consistent and used properly throughout the work?

Plotting, Scene Development and Pacing:  Does the story progress, and is it contrived or character driven?  Is each scene sufficiently crafted to reveal character growth or changes?  Do the scenes follow the novel structure of rising conflict, leading to climax, resolution and denouement?  Does the story maintain consistent pacing?

The Ending:  Is it satisfactory (not necessarily happy), but does the book drive to a surprising or powerful conclusion that will make a reader pick up the next book.

Grammar & Punctuation:  I will not line-edit the manuscript, but I will note consistencies in grammar or punctuation errors and make suggestions for improvement in literary style (active verbs, etc.), if I see them.

Marketing:  Is this a one-time novel, or are there possibilities for a series or other books?  Has the author considered the genre and how to sell or market the work?  Suggestions will be made. (This stemmed from reading a work by a first-time novelist.  He had not considered that his crime novel could be a series).  Sometimes, an author is so busy writing, he or she has not considered other possible books generated from the same story.  This does not apply to all manuscripts.  It is dependent on the manuscript and the author’s goals.  If I see potential in other markets or another work, I will note it.


1)   First Review: Depending on the problems noted on a preview of the manuscript, the fees range from $0.009 to $0.01/word.  Manuscripts formatted incorrectly will be returned unread. I return a full report that identifies the working elements and those that need revision. I also annotate the manuscript and enclose a Plot Structure report, identifying the current plot points and suggestions to improve the storyline. I prefer to have a conference call or two after the client has had time to read the report and manuscript notes, as questions normally arise. I’m very detailed in my comments both on the manuscript and in the reports. At $0.009/word, a 70,000 word manuscript would cost $630, plus $30 for processing, or a total of $660. At $0.01/word, the cost is $700, plus $30 or $730.

I’m happy to provide a sample edit of the first 30 pages for $30.

I have worked with beginning writers. Some will undergo major revisions before the manuscript is ready for a more extensive review. My methods allow a beginner access to developmental editing without breaking the bank. My goal is to provide immediate improvements while teaching novices the craft, all for reasonable costs. 

For proficient, experienced authors, where the plot, pacing and character elements work, a developmental editor will tighten the text by removing extraneous material, search for ways to improve flow and style, suggest where to increase tension, fix awkward sentences, and more.

2)   Additional Review: Same fees as above, unless I determine less work is involved. I have had authors who just want a problematic chapter re-read, rather than the entire manuscript. My prices and methods allow me to work with an author, if needed, through multiple revisions while keeping the costs down.

Literary Non-Disclosure: 

As a writer, editor and teacher, I am as fervent about protecting the work of my clients and students as I am about protecting my own work.  The US copyright office has information about filing a copyright (the link is listed under the Writer’s Reference tab).  There are limitations to submitting multiple versions of the same work for copyright.  Read the information carefully before deciding when to file.

To begin the developmental editing process with S. Woffington Literary Services:

Just email a request to me, using the contact boxes to follow.  I will send you a Developmental Editing Questionnaire and my contact information, so that we can discuss the project.  Once you have paid the initial fee, I begin work on the manuscript.  I am also available for a phone or email consultation as a follow-up, once the manuscript is returned to you.

I will confirm receipt of your manuscript, and, subject to my current workload, we will set a time-frame for completion.  The editing itself will take take from four to six weeks to complete. 

No amount of editing guarantees the marketability of a manuscript or its future sale or success in the marketplace. 

Please contact me below.

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