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Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Editing is a tricky business. It requires analytical flair and creative panache, the patience of a saint and the vision of a writer. Transforming a manuscript into a book that edifies, inspires, and sells? That’s the job of the developmental editor, whose desk is the first stop for many manuscripts on the road to bookdom—a route ably mapped out in the pages of Developmenta ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 30th 2011 by University of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  229 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Jae Jae
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-editing
"Developmental Editing" is written for freelance editors of nonfiction, not fiction. A few things could be of use to fiction editors too, but overall, I would recommend another book if you are looking for a book on editing fiction.
Finally, a method for my madness! It is enormously interesting to read of someone else's editing process -- especially someone with so much experience -- and see how it matches and where it diverges from one's own. This book offers me a more complete and precise vocabulary for what I have done intuitively. I’ve learned a lot from it. This book is great for anyone who has ever been asked -- or wondered -- what the difference is between copyediting and substantive / developmental editing, as well ...more
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
One reason I love my job is that I get to read books like this one when there's nothing to proofread :)
David Schlosser
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is pretty terrific as in introduction to anyone interested in becoming a developmental editor or adding developmental editing to their portfolio of editorial services, or as a refresher to someone who offers developmental editing as a service (that's what I do, so this review is written from that perspective).

The book uses a case-study approach, which I think is effective in offering important perspective on applying what you're learning from the author. In my opinion, the
Oct 30, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
My low rating has nothing to do with the usefulness of this book as a technical manual. So far, it's proved helpful enough. However, the hypothetical authors, editors, and manuscripts are wildly offensive. I was especially floored at the racist and sexist foundations and trans-erasing/transphobic content of the sample manuscript in chapter two. The developmental editor character even used a slur to refer to trans people in her notes. Is it too much to ask of a standard text for the field, writte ...more
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-editing
A practical, manageable, and enjoyable guide to DE.
Sonnet Fitzgerald
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wonderful sister-in-law, Emmy, bought me this book for my birthday. Now is that a great SiL, who buys me books about editing, or what??

I've been wanting to read this for a while and I'm so glad I finally got the chance. The greatest thing about this book is that it is hilarious. It manages to convey a ton of information while still being a very fun read. Even if you're only peripherally involved in dev edits or publishing, I would recommend this book, just because it's so enjoyable.
Patrick Walsh
Several chapters for this book are assigned reading for an advanced editing course that I am taking, and wanting to get full value from my purchase, I read the entire book. Scott Norton packs a lot into this short book. The publisher packs a lot, too, setting the book in nine-point type.

To illustrate the work that developmental editors (DEs) do, Norton develops and carries through a scenario in each chapter. Each scenario features one of two fictional editors who portray in their tur
Read for my certificate class on developmental editing. The text is very informative but somewhat dry, and I was disappointed that “the first work devoted entirely to developmental editing” focused largely on nonfiction. I would have liked to see many more how-to’s and examples for dev editing fiction manuscripts.
Wow, this was technical! I don't know what I was expecting, but this was waaaaay more technical than I needed. That said, a few pages of this book has helped me totally restructure my book, so I'm grateful.
Amanda Clarke
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most handbooks tend towards the dry, no matter how useful their information might be. Not this one. There's a lot of useful information here and it's presented in a very readable, easy to digest format which is appreciated.
Pete Harris
Feb 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic
Lots of detail about the publishing industry, and the kinds of things developmental editors have to do.

It's very focused on non-fiction, so if you want to know more about developmental editing for fiction, you'll have to extrapolate a bit.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, editing
Absolutely essential reading for developmental editing and nonfiction writers. This is a how-to in assembling a nonfiction book and an invaluable resource.
Paul Silvia
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book every time I start to ponder a new book idea---it's excellent.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for my Chicago course. Focuses on nonfiction, but nonetheless a fabulous resource that I will definitely be returning to again and again.
Rena Graham
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Super helpful advice.
Jonathan Hiskes
A guide to open-heart surgery on books.
Jen Grogan
A great, in-depth look at the processes of developmental editing, but (unfortunately for me) very specific to non-fiction books. I found a lot of interesting insights here, but less, sadly, that I'll be able to put to immediate use.
Janett Wawrzyniak
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
University of California Press in Berkeley guides developmental editing in this book, for authors and publishers. This book denotes significant structuring or restructuring of a manuscripts discourse. It helps the author form a vision for the book and coaches chapter by chapter to ensure the vision is successfully executed. With use of line editing, chapter, section, paragraph and sentence levels, suggested rewrites are given. Authors should find practical advice to improve their writing skills; ...more
While this book makes some helpful points about developmental editing practices, it’s rather poorly copy-edited and misses the mark in tone and scope.

Throughout each chapter, the writing switches abruptly from Norton’s advice to strangely written “case studies” of fictional developmental editors that seem straight out of a children’s textbook. The overall tone seems to miss the mark, as Norton uses clunky abbreviations and a third-person voice even though the book would be much clear
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this book for my editing class, but it would be good for any kind of editor, or for anyone who does prepublication work on a manuscript.

Overall, this book gives good tips and step-by-step guidelines for developmental editors working on different kinds of manuscripts. Although it focuses on nonfiction publications, this book also includes segues about what to do if you're editing fiction pieces. The book takes you through the entire editing process from accepting a publishable proposal to
Roger Market
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great handbook. The case studies are thoughtful and insightful, and it's clear why they're the best approach to developmental editing instruction. The typical approach used for copyediting, etc., wouldn't work for high-level editing.

However, the book could use a summary and a checklist and/or workflow to tie things together. I'm not sure where I'd begin if I had to DE a manuscript; I'd probably find myself frantically combing the handbook for a workable pathway, wasting val
Ashley  Brooks
This is a great book for any developmental editors out there, but it can also be useful for writers. I knocked it down a star because many of the examples were aimed at high-level, academic nonfiction; I was hoping for more fiction examples. I didn't finish it because it's not relevant to the work I'm doing right now, but I'd recommend it to anyone heading into developmental editing.
This was an excellent overview of what is involved in the developmental editing process. While I only gave it 3 stars, that's more because I am not particularly interested in this type of editing. Nonetheless, it was valuable to me as an aspiring copyeditor to know the process.
Stacey Atkinson
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book really useful to learn about how to pull together a book project that might need that little extra nudge. Whether your are an author or an editor, there is some good advice in this book to help get you on the right track for that next book project.
Kevin Eagan
Pretty good guide for getting started with developmental editing. This has helped me rethink some of the previous and current developmental and substantive editing I've done. Some of the book's examples were not very helpful, but the practical advice given in each makes this a worthwhile read.
Deborah Gonzalez
As far as I know, this is the only book that really describes the developmental editing process and provides guidance on how to do it well.
Christine Frank
I am dipping in and out of this book and I love it. I want to go out to SF and take a class from the author. It's my current take-along, traffic light, waiting-for-friends book.
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The use of actual examples to follow made this a 5-star book for me.
Katie Pierson
Rocked my world. Norton sets a high bar and makes me want to clear it.
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After graduating from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications with a BA in writing and a minor in English Literature, I entered the family business where I wrote a ton of industrial scripts and ad copy and accumulated a great deal of experience in video, film and multimedia production. I also learned a fair bit about the importance of an office with a locking door and a pair of win ...more
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