Sometimes also called structural editing, developmental editing, and substantive editing. But what is it?
Michaelangelo once explained sculpting: "The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material."
That's how I define development editing. Sometimes I receive a nearly finished manuscript that just needs final polishing for the sculpture to burst forth. Other manuscripts are still rough blocks—but that sculpture is in there, waiting for a bold and insightful editor to shape the text so it emerges ready to serve its purpose and speak to its audience.
Copyediting & Proofreading
Some people see the forest. Other people see the trees. My family likes to joke that I spot the bonsai trees. But I always cultivate a comprehensive understanding of how all the bonsai fit into the big picture. That quality makes me a valuable copyeditor, whether you're a PR/fundraising professional, traditional publisher, or self-publishing author.
Light copyediting involves spotting and correcting critical errors in spelling and punctuation, grammar and usage, capitalization and abbreviations, and other finicky style matters (basically, what many people mean when they ask for proofreading). It often includes conforming to a specific style manual. I specialize in these:
Chicago Manual of Style (16th and 17th editions)
USCCB Style Guide (see below)
Heavy copyediting goes deeper. It delves into issues of wordiness, clarity of expression, flow of ideas, transitions, coherence, and tone and audience. Very heavy copyediting overlaps substantially with light development editing (see above).
Among editorial professionals, proofreading refers to the process of reading the finished layout of the text to spot those final typos as well as errors in layout (missing or misaligned text, incorrectly formatted headings, and myriad other issues that make a layout look sloppy).
USCCB Style Guide
I wrote the USCCB Style Guide as senior editor at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The manual set the standard for editing publications issued by the USCCB and became a desk reference for many Catholic publishers and affiliated organizations
K – 12 Religious Education Writing
As a development editor for Saint Mary's Press, I developed student textbooks, teacher guides, and primary source readers for the high-school Living in Christ series. Then I began contributing as a co-writer for the teaching materials—notably the Church History teacher manual. My work included editing and writing for conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the USCCB's Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age (PDF here).
Recently my freelance instructional design work has expanded to include the K – 8 Gospel Weeklies series from Pflaum Publishing Group. I coauthored the Good News Activity Book and also wrote the 2017 – 2018 tests and assessments for grades 2 – 3, 4 – 6, and 7 – 8.
It's so satisfying to help guide the Catholic education of today's young people by combining my own Catholic K – 12 education with my professional experience editing for the USCCB and Catholic curriculum publishers.
Manuscript Review &
I'm a born analyst. Combined with my education and editorial background, my analytical nature gives me a laserlike insight into what makes a nonfiction manuscript work—and what it needs to work better.
Nonfiction is my wheelhouse: histories, memoirs, narratives, policy studies, how-to manuals, and so on. Here's how I evaluate manuscripts in light of the needs of those genres:
Review intended and potential audience, purpose, market, publishing plan, and measurements of success.
Review the existing structure, flow, and cohesiveness of the manuscript, with an eye on market audience, and fitness of purpose.
Review 2 – 3 chapters in depth, and skim the remaining chapters.
Consider marketability and how close the manuscript is to a finished product—versus what it needs to make it the rest of the way.
Draft a report outlining all these factors, highlighting what's working well and making recommendations for further development.
Traditional publishers have less need for these services. But if you're an author—whether you intend to self-publish or find an agent—let's talk about what I can do for you.