Developmental Editing: In Practice 2018-11-02T15:37:17+00:00

Good news, book nerds. You can turn your knowledge of fiction-writing craft into a professional service.

As a developmental editor, you’ll help fiction authors improve their novels – and get paid for doing so. To be able to offer this as a professional service, though, you’ll need to know more than literary theory. You’ll also need to know how to deconstruct a manuscript, communicate appropriately with authors and make suitable suggestions.

Developmental editing can be conducted in several different ways and in varying degrees of depth. In this course, I’ll provide you with a broad overview of the service.

You’ll learn how to write an editorial report (also known as a manuscript critique or manuscript assessment) as well as how to edit a manuscript page-by-page.

By the end of the course, you’ll have a clear idea of what your developmental editing service will include and how to offer, price and conduct it.

Who This Course is For

This course could be for you if:

  • You have a sound understanding of writing craft theory (for fiction) – you just aren’t sure how to translate this knowledge into a professional service.
  • You’re already a professional developmental editor but would like to freshen up your skills and get feedback on your work.
  • You want to start a fiction editing business but you don’t want to offer copy-editing or proofreading – you just want to offer big-picture feedback.

This course isn’t for you if you don’t already understand what constitutes good writing. You need to be knowledgeable about literary theory so you can recognise where a manuscript could be improved and be able to offer suitable suggestions.

The three-act structure. Close third-person narration. Character motivation. Narrative thrust. Universal theme … If these terms mean nothing to you, don’t take this course. (Take this one first!)

How the Course Works

This is a 4-week guided online course on how to conduct a developmental edit.

I’ll provide you with comprehensive written modules and weekly assignments, which I’ll give you detailed feedback on. Every week, I’ll email you with the course materials.

You’ll also have access to a private Facebook group, where you can chat with other editors who have taken a Liminal Pages course.

Week 1: How Developmental Editing Works

  • What you need to know to edit fiction
  • Different methods of developmental editing
  • Where developmental editing fits in the writing/publishing process
  • How to take notes and use lists and tables

Assignment: Read the sample chapters and fill in the structural analysis spreadsheet provided. Using the information you’ve gathered, identify a potential issue.

Week 2: Quoting and Preparing to Edit

  • Aligning your service with the author’s goals
  • Establishing the scope of work
  • The importance of knowing your genre(s)
  • Pricing and quoting for projects

Assignment: Develop a questionnaire to send to new clients and respond to three fictional enquiries.

Week 3: Writing an Editorial Report

  • An in-depth look at what goes into an editorial report
  • Using a template to help you structure your report
  • Getting the tone of your feedback right
  • Offering objective feedback and suggestions

Assignment: Using the sample chapters from Week One, choose an issue to write about in-depth and suggest how the author can improve the writing. 

Week 4: Editing the Page

  • Page-level issues to address
  • Using Track Changes and comments in Word
  • How to phrase queries and suggestions
  • Exploring when editing becomes rewriting

Assignment: Edit the sample chapter.

BONUS: Finding Clients

A short additional module outlining ways to find your first paying clients.


This course will run again in the first quarter of 2019.

Sign up to be notified when Liminal Pages courses open for registration: 

Who Am I To Teach Developmental Editing?

Hi, I’m Sophie Playle. I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at UEA. I also hold an MA in Creative Writing, used to work for publishing-giant Pearson, and have completed in-depth editing training through The Publishing Training Centre and The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (where I’m an Advanced Professional Member). I’ve been running my own freelance editing practice for six years, with manuscript critiquing (a type of developmental editing) being one of my most popular services.

Questions and Answers

Do I have to attend the course in person? 

Nope. This is an online course. I’ll email you the modules weekly, and you’ll email me your assignments for feedback. And you can chat with other students in the private Facebook group.

Will this course be useful if I want to learn developmental editing for non-fiction?

No. This course relates exclusively to fiction. There’s some crossover in the skills involved, but the focus of this course is on how to develop a novel.

Does this course teach any fiction theory?

No. This course assumes you already have a solid understanding of what goes into a well-written novel, and that you know how to analyse a piece of writing. If you’re looking for a course that teaches this, try Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory.

Okay, so do I have to do Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory before I take this course?

Not as long as you feel confident in your knowledge of writing craft theory. Perhaps you’ve got a degree in English Literature, or perhaps you’re an established writer, or perhaps you’ve just read a lot of books on literary analysis.

Can I be a developmental editor who specialises in a certain genre?

Absolutely. In fact, I encourage it. Different genres handle different aspects of storytelling in different ways, so if you specialise, you’ll be able to offer more useful feedback.

Are there any additional expenses?

No, though I will recommend some further reading to help advance your learning.

How much time will this course require?

You should set aside at least three hours per week for it.

Do I have to be from the UK to benefit from this course?

Not at all. Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans, Wakandans … everyone is welcome. Editing is a global community, and I won’t be addressing any UK-specific publishing conventions.

Damn, I missed out on a spot! / I don’t have time to join this time around. Will you run this course again?

Yes, but I’m not sure when. I’m aiming to run this course roughly two or three times a year, but I schedule my courses around client work so this makes it difficult to commit to dates far in advance. I recommend you sign up to the notifications email list so I can let you know when the course will run again.

Do you offer refunds?

No, so please purchase mindfully! I like to think I’ve included enough detail for you to make an informed decision about whether this course is right for you, but if you’re still hesitant about buying, feel free to email me first.

Okay, I’m ready. Where do I sign up?

Yay! Check above to see when the course will run next! (Or to book your place if registration is currently open.)