Developmental and Substantive Editing

The success of many great authors–including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Elizabeth Bishop–is due in part to the relationships they had with their editors. These editors (Maxwell Perkins, Gordon Lish, Katharine White and Howard Moss at the New Yorker, among others) did extensive developmental editing on these writers’ works. They provided their authors with extensive feedback and helped them hone their style. The publishing industry was different then; editors had time and the mandate to do developmental work on promising but rough manuscripts. Would authors such as Carver, Bishop, and Fitzgerald have been published today, I wonder?

These days, publishing houses are less and less able, or sometimes even willing, to build editorial relationships with authors. Book sales are dropping off precipitously, fewer books are being published, and print runs are shrinking. Editors are under a fair amount of pressure to acquire books that will generate major revenue; the time editors once spent to develop the work of promising authors has vanished. Why invest time in a less polished project when there are so many polished ones available? So the work of project development–a crucial component of any good book, article, or poem–is left to authors, who are often too close to their own work, and sometimes to agents, who often have their own agendas. Simply persuading an agent to consider taking your work on can be as arduous as finding a publisher, and authors often need a polished project from the outset.

I enjoy working with authors to develop their work. Whether you are preparing a manuscript for submission to a publisher or an agent, working toward self-publishing, or writing for yourself and your friends and family, I’m happy to advise you by serving as a writing coach, editor, critic, and careful reader as you work to meet your goals. Please contact me with questions.