Today’s special guest is, Michelle Dunbar, a talented writer and editor that I came across while studying creative writing with the Open University.
Michelle has come along to tell you how she got into editing and a little about the process she goes through in her daily duties as a developmental editor, but first let’s find out a little more about our guest.
Michelle Dunbar lives on the outskirts of Glasgow with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. She is an avid reader, writer, and editor of science fiction and fantasy and is currently working on her first novel. She enjoys films and Netflix dramas in her favourite genres, and if she has the time, some gardening and baking.
And now over to Michelle with her article ‘Life as a Developmental Editor’.
Life as a Developmental Editor
I am a developmental editor of science fiction and fantasy. I read early drafts of books and provide authors with feedback regarding the ‘bigger’ picture: Plot, story, tone, characterisation, and settings are just a few of the things I look for and give advice on.
I fell into editing through a chance tweet by an independent publisher. I had just finished studying the Advanced Creative Writing module with the Open University when the publisher, who is, sadly, no longer trading, invited me to apply to their internship as an acquisition editor. Over the course of a year, I read submissions and selected which books I felt had merit. I also had the opportunity to do some substantive and copy editing on a couple of books scheduled for publication.
I was no stranger to providing fellow authors with feedback and advice as I used to read books authors intended to send off to agents and publishers (beta reading) in the days before self-publishing became accessible to independent authors. So, after completing my English Literature degree in 2016, I started my own business. I chose to specialize in developmental editing because structure and the different elements that go into creating a story is what interests me, and the reason I chose to specialise in science fiction and fantasy is because I wanted to increase my knowledge of common tropes and trends, with a view to helping the authors writing in these genres as much as possible.
It is important to enjoy the genres I edit in because I read each book a minimum of two, but usually three times. My first read is as a reader to gauge my initial thoughts on the story and characters. The second time I read it, I don my editor ‘hat’ and critique areas of weakness and offer praise where a scene or character works particularly well. Once this part of the process is complete, the author receives their manuscript back and makes any changes in relation to the feedback received before sending it back for a final ‘read through’, along with any questions or concerns they might have.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is watching a story develop from an early draft to a polished manuscript. Over the past four years, I have edited over one hundred and forty books, most of which are self-published, and now work alongside two copy editors, an additional developmental editor, and a cover designer. Just recently, I created a writing group on Facebook, with the intention of helping new writers to improve their craft. Despite my experience and current knowledge of writing techniques, I am a strong believer in professional development. I take courses on editing and devour books on the craft of writing, and I am about to commence my first year studying an MA in Creative Writing.
As for the future, I shall continue to assist authors where I can, and hope to publish my first novel in the not-too-distant future.
Thank you, Michelle. A very informative article. Good luck with the MA, if you enjoy it even half as much as I enjoyed mine, then you’re going to love it. Where can my readers find you?
Examples of books that Michelle has edited.