Development Editing – Do It

I have two current Works In Progress – a novel, Fatherhood, and its prequel novelette, ChildhoodChildhood is positioned as a reader magnet, a short story offered for free to (hopefully) spark interest in the novel.

kourosh-qaffari-1144508-unsplashA novelette is shorter than a novella, which is shorter than a novel – averages of around 10,000 words, 35,000 words, and 80,000 words, respectively. Don’t let its diminutive stature fool you, though. A novelette requires the same attention to plot development and detail as a novel.

I’ve gone through the critique process for Childhood. For those unfamiliar, this involves peers (usually authors) reviewing the draft (usually first, second, and/or third) of a work before the author sends it to a professional editor for further work. By critiquing others’ work, authors become better writers. It’s a wonderful relationship that produces positive results, but is not complete. Critiques at this level only go as far as your peer group’s expertise and time.

The next step in producing a work of fiction is development (dev) editing. A professional editor will examine plot, timing, pacing, chapter structure, and other manuscript qualities to point out what does not work. This is not a cheering section; an author needs the dev editor to be brutally honest.

A few days ago I received my dev editor’s input for Childhood. In her email, she stressed I take a few days to process the comments before responding. I had no choice; I was at a conference and could not address the feedback until a few days later. But I did review the summary comments and let her know I appreciated the feedback and would be delayed with my response. She appreciated that, because, as she wrote, she wants to know that she’s provided the best service possible.

And she did. Pages of excellent comments pointing out opportunities for improvement. If I hadn’t gone through the process before, I may have been put off by the volume of feedback. But here’s the one important point to remember when receiving dev editor feedback: they want you to succeed.  Once you believe that, the criticisms become positive opportunities for learning.

Such was my experience with my dev editor for my previous novel, Leaving Darkness. I had always been sort of “loose” with point of view (POV), but that feedback taught me how important it is for the reader to produce a work with “POV discipline” (my term, if you want to use it, I get royalties!). Seriously, I became a better writer because of that feedback, and my trade will only improve with the input for Childhood.

I offer this as 1) a glimpse into the novel creation process for the non-author and 2) encouragement for the author. If you’re writing fiction, go beyond your crit group and contract with a dev editor. Consider it tuition towards an advanced degree in writing.

Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on Unsplash

Writing Tools – AutoCrit

Ah, AutoCrit – I have a love-hate relationship with you! No, not hate, maybe frustration at all of the possible ways you present to me that I may improve my manuscript. But that is also why I love you – and love wins out with you.AutoCrit

I need to issue a warning – AutoCrit will provide the writer with a tsunami of information. Everything from repeated words to verb tense to passivity (is that even a word?) to too many adverbs for the genre, AutoCrit is a very powerful diagnostic tool for the fiction author. And therein is one of its limitations – it is structured for fiction, not non-fiction. No, not limitation, feature – AutiCrit does not pretend to be something it isn’t.

AutoCrit examines a manuscript against industry averages to determine alerts on too many adverbs, sentence length and variation, and other variables. Is it perfect? I suspect not. But it does provide many paths the author ma choose to investigate.

That’s the key – “may choose to investigate.” Don’t choose them all, there’s simply too much information, else the writer will spend more time fine-tuning the manuscript to satisfy AutoCrit and not the readers. Never forget the readers are the primary concern.

I often say that AutoCrit has helped me become a better writer. I tend to use less adverbs and therefore produce tighter works. I also have shaken most of my passive bad habits. Not all, but I also catch them often before running an AutiCrit analysis.Adverbs, passive

AutoCrit won’t help with a bad story line – it’s not a developmental editor. Nor will it point out Point of View (POV) issues. You’ll have to diagnose and correct plot deficiencies and head-hopping yourself, or go the preferred route, hire developmental and copy editors. I did just that and learned much more, especially from the developmental edit process, but that shall be a post for another day.

Bottom line – I love AutoCrit. I have no interest beyond promoting a good product.

Screenshot from AutoCrit https://www.autocrit.com/