Developing Your Writing: Manuscript Evaluation vs. Developmental Editing

There’s more than one way to develop your writing as an author.

There’s often a lot of focus on developmental editing as the first type of editing. However, developmental editing has a less laborious, cost-effective sister: the manuscript evaluation. Though the expected result — the author gets more clarity on how to tie their story together — the two are not really the same. Let’s discuss how they are different.

What is a Manuscript Evaluation?

A manuscript evaluation, also called an editorial assessment, is like a developmental edit, but they are not the same. Manuscript evaluations focus on the big-picture ideas in a manuscript and help give an author a focused direction for ways to better develop characters, tie the story together, and ensure that the story concept is appropriate for the intended audience and genre. They may also highlight issues with mechanics so that they can be addressed. A manuscript evaluation looks at a manuscript overall, allowing the author to go back to the drawing board.

Manuscript evaluations are great for authors that are: one, on a budget, but see the value in having the big ideas in their manuscript combed out, and two, okay with receiving minimal feedback on their manuscript and being left on their own to address those issues. The editors who perform these sorts of assessments will give you resources to get you pointed in the right direction, but they will not spend numerous amounts of time walking through writing ideas and concepts with you.

Developing Editing

Developmental edits, on the other hand, do a lot of heavy lifting of the story. These can often be chapter-by-chapter or character-by-character analyses that dig to the soul of your writing (and maybe your own soul as well). This is where substantial rewriting may take place, both by an editor and author. Because this is so time-consuming for an editor to do for you, expect to pay a pretty penny (the Editorial Freelancers Association website is a good place to gauge price ranges).

Developmental editors may do a bit of hand holding due to the nature of the editing they do. At this editing phase, as well as with any other phase, you will want to ensure you select the right editor for you as things will get cozy between you and whoever you choose. If you are an author that can stretch funds at this point in producing your manuscript, or would really like a micro-level view of what’s working in your writing and what is not, developmental editing is the right choice for you.

How to Decide 

I would not recommend that you have both of these services completed on your manuscript. To help you better decide, you may want to consider cost, the depth of feedback you’re looking for, and how quickly you’d like to move to the next step of the editing phase. Both manuscript evaluations and developmental edits take time to be thoroughly performed; however, due to the deep nature of developmental edits they will take more time. But both are effective and whichever you choose will do wonders to get you on the right path to producing a work you can be proud of. As a writer, you could not go wrong with either of these options.

Featured photo by Clever Visuals on Unsplash