There is a term that has been bandied around the internet and is starting to make the rounds of conferences and writing forums. It's a term that describes that type of person whom one might want to hire during the early stages of a manuscript's life (or later stages if a book is struggling to gain reader engagement). The term: Book Doctor or Plot Doctor. It's an interesting buzz term. However, I have encountered other terms that also refer to the same type of editor.
Book Doctor = Manuscript Assessor = Developmental Editor
Yep, you read that right, folks. Book Doctor is just another term for a developmental editor. And guess what... That's exactly the type of editor that I am.
So, what does a Book Doctor or Developmental Editor actually do?
Developmental editing is about the story, plot and character, among other things.
As I've discussed in various previous posts, developmental editing is a complicated beast, ranging in an examination of the overall plot structure and character development, through to the nitty-gritty of the backstory and individual scene descriptions (and the amount of detail needed). It's about understanding story pacing and reader engagement, bring out the emotional response through the narrative.
A developmental editor (or book doctor as many have started to call them) will examine consistency within the world that you have created and the characters that you have described. They will assess the believably of the plot and whether any twists and turns are convenient tools or brilliant inventions that were never expected. They look at the foreshadowing and the backstory. They examine the appropriateness of show vs tell. And they give insight into creating dialogue that gives each character their own voice.
For those that work in non-fiction, they assess the order in which ideas are presented. They look at the level of detail needed to convey an idea. Some will do fact checking, but not all do. It's about creating a story from the facts.
All developmental editors (or book doctors) will have their areas of expertise. This is important, because the beats associated with a Mills and Boons romance are completely different to that of a high-action thriller novel. World building in a fantasy or science fiction novel is on a whole different level then a story with a contemporary setting.
For the sake of your story, it's vital that you hire the right person, especially in those early developmental stages. Even I have my preferred genres for editing.
The difference between a manuscript assessment and a full edit.
Copyediting is the type of editing that focuses on grammar, punctuation and language usage. That's not what this article is about. We're talking about the editing that occurs during the early stages of a manuscript's life, focusing on the story itself.
A manuscript assessment is a where an editor reads through your manuscript and comments about how the overall structure works. There will be comments about some specifics, but it's mainly a big picture view.
Contrast this with a full edit, where no stone is left unturned; a manuscript is often torn apart and pieced back together. The story is looked at from an big picture view, as well as on a chapter, scene and paragraph level. Sometimes, sentence constructions are looked at in detail. Wording choices. Narrative details. All of it.
Granted some of the full edit aspects are covered by copyeditors too, particularly wording choices, and a copy editor will (or should) point out inconsistencies; however, copyeditors do not have the same eye for story construction that a developmental editor does.
So, where did the term Book Doctor come from?
The origins of the term Book Doctor are up for debate. Some will insist that only those with a PhD in Literature or English can call themselves a Book Doctor, but the way the term is now being used, ANY editor IS a Book Doctor, and just like any medical doctor, editors have their areas of expertise.
We're the ones that come in and diagnose issues with the story telling and the writing style, prescribe a course of treatments, all in the attempt to make a book healthier. The developmental editor (myself included) are the specialists in story. The copyeditors are the specialists in final punctuation and grammar. Some book doctoring sites even offer services that will also doctor your formatting, also known as typesetting. But like any editor, you need to ensure that you are hiring the right doctor for the right job.
(Would you hire a gynecologist to help treat issues with your feet?)
Services offered by the Black Wolf Book Doctor
(Okay, that sounds corny — Black Wolf Editor.)
As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I'm a developmental editor, specialized in the early stages of editing and story telling. I offer manuscript critiques, as well as more in-depth line-editing. I also offer coaching and mentoring. There is a reason that my slogan is nurturing your writing into maturity. It's my philosophy to help writers see the early developmental editing issues for themselves. It's about giving a writer control over their own writing.
All writers will still need a certain level of developmental editing, as writers often get too close to a manuscript to see the forest for the trees. However, my more experienced clients use my services as a sounding board, bounding ideas off of me, and getting a full manuscript critiques before they send a manuscript out for beta readers.
When I started Black Wolf Editorial Services, it was my goal to put professional developmental editing within the reach of all writers, including those just starting out. Check out the full list of services available.