I’ve got my development edit back from my developmental editor, Chelsea Harper (who deserves a shoutout) and there’s plenty of work that needs to be done. I think it’s a good thing that she caught all these places, because I as an author can’t see all of them.
I should explain what a developmental editor is — a developmental editor examines the story for plot development, character development, and writing structure — in other words, she looks at the story with an eye for making it stronger and more readable. This can be the difference between a rejection and an acceptance, because agents have so many manuscripts to choose from that they’re going to skim your work initially to see if it “grabs” you. A mild introduction, an ambiguous character, an information dump (telling rather than showing), will all turn off an agent. Even if the story idea is brilliant and daring, they won’t see it through the distractions.
I think that’s an important thing to emphasize — I as an author can’t see all the places my work needs improvement. I’m too familiar with the characters to see where I’ve shortchanged them. I’m too in love with the story to see where I’ve made it hard for readers to be in love with it.
I used to think I didn’t need an editor, because I was an articulate person and I could catch grammatical and other errors. I was arrogant, and I was wrong. I now see developmental edits as part of the process if I want to get published.
If you’re a writer who wants to get published, I suggest finding the money for a developmental editor. If you can’t afford that, find someone who reads a lot to go through it — it’s probably not as good as a good professional, but it’s something.
Your work deserves critique.