Developmental Editing of Fiction: Beginning, June 27–July 31 (5 weeks) SU22


June 27, 2022

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SKU: 220931


"Developmental editors are solution finders—we offer guidance, not critiques." —Val Mathews, instructor
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Developmental editors are all about the big picture. They assess how the manuscript hangs together as a whole, how the story moves and unfurls, and how the characters drive the story forward. They are solution finders who offer guidance, not critiques.

This five-week introductory course is meant for anyone who wants to help authors shape their stories, develop their storytelling grit, and conquer the boring in their manuscripts. It covers the basic knowledge every DE needs to know to work in the industry, including how to:

  • increase your knowledge of the craft of fiction
  • understand the big-picture developmental items to look for
  • write a DE outline of a manuscript
  • use the “feedback sandwich”
  • create a DE checklist
  • use a DE color-coding system
  • write diplomatic queries
  • be solution-focused (give guidance, not a critique)
  • write an editorial letter (sometimes called a revision letter)

Lessons include handouts, videos, links, and class discussion via a forum and a live Q&A session on Zoom. The lessons explain and illustrate concepts and offer more opportunities for you to practice what you’ve learned. Each module will introduce a DE tool and review one or more elements of fiction.

If you’ve always been curious about developmental editing and want to give it a try, or if you’d like to review the basic skills you need to succeed in this type of editing, register now! Class size is limited, as it includes plenty of one-on-one instructor feedback.

Week 1: We’ll discuss what developmental editing is and what it is not. Students will be introduced to the big-picture items involved in a developmental edit. In this week’s assignment, we’ll evaluate a short story and create an outline and developmental editing checklist.

Week 2: We’ll discuss the danger of scope creep and tips to prevent it. Students will focus on how to suggest structural changes. In this week’s assignment, we’ll practice writing effective and diplomatic queries for the short story from week one.

Week 3: We’ll discuss the author-editor relationship and how to nurture it. Students will then focus on how to edit for pacing and narrative movement. In this week’s assignment, we’ll evaluate a sample chapter and write an editorial letter to the author using the feedback sandwich.

Week 4: We’ll discuss character development and point of view. Students will be introduced to an editorial color-coding system and in-text comments. In this week’s assignment, we’ll evaluate a sample chapter with a focus on point of view, and we’ll make edits and queries using in-text edits, comments, and the Track Changes comment feature.

Week 5: We’ll discuss character development and the character arc with a focus on character agency. In the final assignment, students will bring everything together and prepare a developmental editing package (editorial letter, edits, and queries) for a short story.


This course is open to students at all levels.

Val M. Mathews is a big-hearted, fun-loving editor at the Wild Rose Press, a small traditional publishing house in New York, and an editorial consultant for CRAFT Literary, a well-established online literary magazine. She also teaches courses in editing for Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. 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.

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