Developmental editing helps establish the best overall structure and organization for a writing project at an early stage. The developmental stage is especially critical with a collection of short pieces, or with multiple authors.
As developmental editor, I focus on the big picture. I review all the existing material -- files, manuscripts, notes, or plans. Consulting as needed with writer and publisher, I develop an order and format to best serve the material and the intended audience.
My developmental editing may include:
The following examples illustrate the challenge and satisfaction of developmental editing.
How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America (and the World) And What You Can Do About It
The first edition -- How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America And What You Can Do About It -- debuted in 1998. It was a surprise success for author Bill Quinn and publisher Ten Speed Press, selling out four printings.
Bill continued his scrutiny of Wal-Mart: collecting press coverage, corresponding with readers, and spreading the word. Late in 1999 Ten Speed decided to produce a new edition, completely updated and expanded from 114 pages to 171. The book's revised title would reflect a new emphasis on Wal-Mart's seemingly relentless progress toward global dominance.
When Ten Speed tapped me to develop, rewrite, research, and contribute writing to the new edition, I was only distantly aware of the Wal-Mart phenomenon (I'd been inside just one store, back in 1992 in Kentucky). I plunged into the project: poring over the first edition, flagging older stories for follow-up, then seeking out the latest information. I sorted through the author's thick folders of clippings, anecdotes, and readers' responses, assigning each to an appropriate topical chapter.
Bill and I talked on the phone and the faxes and Fed Ex packages flew back and forth between San Francisco and Fort Worth. Bill's in his eighties, and he's sticking with the pen and typewriter; his son, who lives down the street, helped troubleshoot the fax machine.
As I researched the expansion of Wal-Mart and its opposition movement since 1997, I drew on many sources -- from websites to industry analyses to Wal-Mart annual reports. I rewrote and polished the author's new material, produced much of the international coverage (striving to match Bill's distinctive voice), and melded these with the first edition. I created a new recurring feature, "We Get Letters.../...And We Get Calls" for readers' horror stories.
Combined sales of the original and new editions have reached over 20,000 copies.
This project made me a fervent opponent of the mega-retailer's unconscionable policies and actions. Read an excerpt in Selected Writing Projects, get the book, and fight back!
Chasin' That Devil Music
I served as both developmental editor and copyeditor for Chasin' That Devil Music by Gayle Dean Wardlow, published by Miller Freeman. A sourcebook on blues musicians of the Mississippi Delta, it brought together three decades of journal articles for the first time. These historic articles documented a search for the truth in a field of legend, mystery, and controversy.
My innovative editorial approach integrated the copyediting and developmental processes into one. By copyediting from the start, I got to know the musicians and those who knew them. This enabled me as developmental editor to more easily reorder the parts in a natural sequence.
To make the book a truly cohesive whole, I resolved the pervasive problem of redundant, conflicting, and outdated material. I pinpointed the single best location for an often-repeated reminiscence. I requested new sidebar material to explain insider terms. And I settled on one name to use for each of the bluesmen who had gone by several -- or many -- in their careers.
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