Despite all the blog-stalking I did to answer the question "what is a developmental edit, really?", I was still apprehensive when the much-awaited email from my editor arrived. "She hates it!" I worried; "She's going to tell me, 'This was an amusing first try. Better luck next time.'" (I won't lie when I tell you my conference experience is mostly to blame for that.)
Buuuut... Ms. Jamie Chavez kept her promise that she's just as much cheerleader as critic.
If you have an editor like Ms. Chavez, you'll receive two documents when she's completed the initial edit: one with notes on Big Picture issues like plot, point-of-view, characterization, world building, miscellaneous loose ends, and one that's your actual manuscript with comments in the margins. My favorite section is the beginning of the first doc, a couple pages of "things that worked!" And there are things that need work, of course, but none of her suggestions make me feel like it's not my story anymore.
And I figured out just why you need an editor:
- Someway, somehow, Jamie pulled more out of one month/two read-throughs of my manuscript than myself and five+ beta readers over a year/dozens of read-throughs
- Her attention to detail is scary-good (how, HOW she keeps track of all these little things, I will never know)
- She can speak into the construction of the book, something I've never really thought about while reading. The proper use of multiple point of views, moving the inciting incident to the first six pages, challenging whether the right protagonist is front-and-center.
- Her encouragement is invaluable. Hearing "This is great!" from your best friend or your mom is cool, but it's another thing entirely when an industry professional says, "You've done so many things right here."
There are big changes. I'll be rewriting/chopping the first few chapters. I'll be rewriting/chopping the ending. I'll be switching from multiple points of view to a single third person perspective. But with Jamie's helpful notes and suggestions, some very interesting things are already in motion. For instance, you'd think forcing multiple perspectives into a single would obscure the antagonist's motivations, right? If you're not in the bad guy's head and you don't have a, "Before I kill you, Mr. Bond," moment, how do you justify his actions throughout the book? But despite this, somehow I've gone from a 'muahaha' antagonist to someone I can sympathize with, to someone I feel sorry for, because that's how my protagonist perceives her. Just hope I can pull it off.
And that's only the tip of the iceberg. So for anyone asking the question "Should I invest in a developmental edit before I query agents?", I'm going to tell you yes, yes you should.