How to Respond to Your Developmental Editor's Feedback
So, you have sent your manuscript to your developmental editor.
You powered through your first draft, making sure you just got your ideas on the page without worrying about whether they were any good - as a first draft should be written.
Then you did one or two more drafts, fixing a few obvious structural faults and errors in your vocabulary, perhaps even finding ways to improve your descriptions and internal thoughts of your characters.
Then, once you can't see the obvious requirements of improvement yourself, it's time for some professional help. This is when you send it off to your developmental editor. 3-4 weeks later, you get it back. And there, before your eyes, is a large document full of things that need attention.
Where do you go from here?
Give the report a read, hoping it doesn't crush your dreams too much.
If you know your first few drafts are lacking something, you will expect a document full of potential rewrites that need to be done. Even so, being told it's not as good as it is in your mind can be really crushing. Keep in mind it is all constructive - they are not criticisms, they are developments, all designed to help your craft the best product you can.
Now it's time to put your editor's words into action to make your novel truly stand out from the crowd.
But how do you go about it? You have a document full of waffle (note to my editor; by waffle, I mean there are a lot of words that suggest a lot of things in a lot of sentences.) Your next stage is to then condense these paragraphs into a few definite things I need to do - i.e. a few definite action points you can use.
Often, the report won't contain clear actions to for you to take, but instead have vague suggestions for you to consider. For example, if the report says "show more backstory for this character," that tells you what you need to do; but doesn't tell you what backstory to tell, when to tell it and how to reveal it. That is up to you as the writer to make sense of in response to your editor's words.
After doing the obvious changes suggested in the report, I go into Super-Organised-Rick mode and get list making.
(Ooh, I do love me some lists!)
And here is what I suggest you do to organise the changes you need to make.
Make a table in Word with three columns and as many rows as are needed. In the first column, head it up with 'Area for Improvement,' the second with 'Ideas' and the third with 'Specific Improvements to Make.'
In the first column, try and summarise the main things that the report said you needed to do. Read through all the 'waffle' and make sense of a few definite actions that need to be taken, and list them in this column.
In the second column - 'Ideas' - try to make sense of how you can put those areas for improvement into action. If you take my earlier example of 'show more backstory' this would be where I burst out as many ideas as I can of how I could do this. However rubbish the idea may seem, I put it down.
Once you have enough ideas, decide what you are going to write/change, which scene, and how you am going to do it; so you have definite changes to make. So, instead of 'show more backstory' there is a definite action to take, such as "add a beginning to chapter 3 whereby Character A hits Character B as a child" - giving a definite improvement to put in, rather than general statements that don't give a definite action to take.
Here is a sample of the table I used when writing I Have the Sight. You will see I have come up with a lot more ideas for some changes than others:
Of course, in time you may find a way of organising this information that works for you that may be different to this - but this is a good place for you to start.