As a developmental editor (DE), you’re a detective and a solution finder. With authors creating new stories every day, there is plenty of room for you and your DE moxie. You will come away from this course with a stronger understanding of the craft of fiction, a deeper appreciation for the art of the developmental edit, and the higher skills needed to make a difference in your clients’ manuscripts—and their lives!
This course is presented through videos, readings, guided discussions, and interactive activities. There are four modules, each lasting one week. Activities and discussions are designed to make you think deeper about a craft topic or help you tackle an edit more efficiently.
You will expand your understanding of the principles of developmental editing and put your knowledge to practice on a full-length manuscript under the instructor’s guidance. There will be ample time to discuss the sample manuscript with your classmates and instructor. Some discussions are guided, and some are open. At the end of the course, you will submit a detailed editorial letter addressing the sample manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses and your plans for revision. The instructor will participate in discussion posts, host a Zoom chat, and give personalized feedback.
Week 1: Solidifying the Story: Premise, Narrative Question, Structure & Focus
Through readings, activities, and discussions, we’ll learn to troubleshoot potential issues with a novel’s premise (conflict, goal, and stakes), narrative question, structure, and focus. Activities include creating a beat sheet of your favorite movie or novel and a chapter list of the sample manuscript. The chapter list helps developmental editors get a big-picture overview of a story’s structure and pinpoint off-balanced areas. The activities will be turned in and discussed on the forums. These discussions and instructor feedback will help us solidify what we have learned. Module 1 ends with a quick analytical look at the opening of a bestselling novel.
Week 2: Strengthening the Plot: Complications & Consequences
Through readings, activities, and discussions, we will assess the role of progressive complications and believable consequences and how they impact the reader’s experience. We will continue to discuss the assigned manuscript through guided and open discussions. Activities include creating a thorough beat sheet for the sample manuscript. The beat sheet helps developmental editors clearly see the narrative chain of cause and effect and quickly identify where that chain is broken or weak. The activities will be turned in and discussed on the forums. These discussions and instructor feedback will help us solidify what we have learned. Module 2 ends with a quick analytical read of the ending of another bestseller.
Week 3: Reinforcing the Developmental Editor’s Role
Through readings, activities, and discussions, you will learn how to reinforce your role as a developmental editor, expand your knowledge and experience so you can edit more objectively and efficiently, and strengthen your author-editor relationships. Activities include discussing the legal and ethical issues that editors must address in manuscripts and creating an editorial letter template for issues that often plague new authors. The instructor will guide these discussions and offer feedback.
Week 4: Creating an Engaging Developmental Editorial Letter for a Novel
Students will develop a thorough, thoughtful, and engaging developmental editorial letter for the sample manuscript. This letter will include demonstrations and examples to help the author tackle the suggested revisions. Students will have ample time to discuss the assignment manuscript with their classmates and instructor. Some discussions are guided, and some are open. Students will receive personalized feedback on their letters after the class concludes.
Required tools: Microsoft Word.
Val M. Mathews teaches courses in editing for the University of California Berkeley Extension, Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, and the Editorial Freelancers Association in New York City. She also works as an editorial consultant for CRAFT Literary and Masters Review, two well-established online literary magazines, and has worked as an editor for traditional publishers. Val earned an MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University and a BFA from the University of Georgia. Fun fact about Val: She’s been an FAA-certified flight instructor for over 25 years, and in the past, she flew Lear jets for a living.