February 25, 2011

A very short list of books on developmental editing

I recently posed as “a freelance developmental editor” in front of a room full of editors about to complete the University of Washington’s Certificate Program in Editing. Interesting to play guest speaker, when I was in that classroom myself a few years ago.

I started out talking about differences between editing for clients who are authors versus clients who are publishers. But really, the question in the room was, How does one begin freelancing as a developmental editor?

My first answer, take Barbara’s Introduction to Developmental Editing class. My second answer, take Karalynn’s class on The Business of Freelance Developmental Editing. (I’m really not paid to say this. And I know people learn in different ways. But I still like to tell people about resources that have been helpful to me.)

My third answer was the short stack of books that I brought to class for show and tell. For breadth, see the Author-Editor Clinic’s list of recommended books. For depth, see Nancy Wick’s posts on this blog about favorite nuggets of wisdom from books on writing. For my short list, see below.

Kyra’s very short list:


What books are on your short list?


  1. I'm glad you included An Editor's Guide to Working with Authors by Barbara Sjoholm, because it contains a superb, 7-page list under Further Reading.

    My own short list is similar to yours, Kyra. I especially appreciate books that have good idexes. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is one, as are Writing Fiction by the Gotham Writers' Workshop, and Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola.

  2. I'd recommend, The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel by Robert J. Ray.

  3. I have read Developmental Editing: A Handbook... by Scott Norton and liked it for its case studies and for showing how much leeway the editors had to suggest changes. (There were some particularly some helpful examples of rethinking structure.) However, most (all?) of the case studies were for non-fiction and the editors were hired by the publisher or acquiring editor, so the book doesn't show an interaction between writer and editor.