Your first step is to get samples from the work and information about the project. There are basic logistics to cover, such as title, word count, and timeline for getting it done.
You should also develop an understanding of the writer’s process, what the story means to them, and their goals. Learning more about the author and the project helps you develop an understanding of what they need and whether you are the editor who can help them.
You need to start a conversation. But you also want to be efficient with your time.
Having a list of questions ready for potential clients can save time and ensure that you cover everything you need to know. The answers to these questions can reveal details you can refer to later, should you take on the project.
This list of questions should cover the basic information you would want to know for any kind of edit:
- The title
- The word count
- Their deadline
- The genre
- The subject matter
- The basic plot
- Their perceived strengths and weaknesses
- Their target reader
- Their publishing goals
- What they want an editor to do
- What they expect to get out of working with you
For a developmental edit you also want to ask them questions covering:
- How they define the primary and secondary themes of their work
- What the plots and subplots are
- Whether the book is part of a series, and if so, what aspects of the story carry over to other books
- What kind of tools and methods they use to keep track of details
- What strategies they have used for revision
- What kind of feedback they have had on their work
- What they love about their story
Their responses will help you gauge their skill level and understanding of the process, get a sense of how much work needs to go into the story, and determine what is important to them. They will give you insight into what they need and how you can help them. They will give you a sense of the message the author is intending to convey in this story, which can provide direction in your edit.
Using a list of questions as a starting point and adapting it to reflect what the client has told you can make the conversation feel more personal. And it should feel personal. Fiction and creative nonfiction are often very personal projects for writers.
Engage with them. Invite them to ask questions. Respond to things that they have said. The better you understand the writer and their work, the better you can reflect their vision.
They are trusting you with the development of their creative work. Show them that they are putting it in the right hands.
Join Copyediting on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, for the Master Class “Key Concepts for Developmental Editing” with Tanya Gold for a more in-depth discussion of the process of developmental editing for fiction and creative nonfiction. Registration closes Monday, August 13, 2018, at 10 pm ET.