Substantive Editing

Substantive editing, sometimes referred to as developmental editing or content editing, is a service that gets right at the meat of a manuscript. In fiction, a substantive edit involves character development, consistency in voice and story structure, careful analysis of writing quality, prose, and dialog. A substantive edit can require broad changes in plot and worldbuilding to ensure narrative consistency and the elimination of plot holes or continuity issues.

A substantive edit can tell you which scenes are not serving the story, which chapters need to be cut or moved, which paragraphs need to be tweaked, and whether your dialogue is working for the characters you’ve created and the circumstances in which they find themselves.

If you’re concerned about the big picture, a substantive edit will help you restructure and reorganize, trimming down the areas that distract from the manuscript’s major themes and plot lines while tightening up your pace and pointing out areas where your dialogue needs to feel more natural.

Developmental Editing for Nonfiction

Nonfiction manuscripts can range from informational and scientific to self-help and memoirs. Style and content can vary widely, though each of these books also can benefit from substantive editing. For nonfiction manuscripts of all types, a substantive edit focuses on pacing, organization, the focus of the thesis, consistency supporting said thesis, accuracy, clarity, and voice.

Due to my area of interest and expertise, I have to be more selective about which nonfiction manuscripts I take on. Please contact me to discuss your project and to see if I would be a good fit for your nonfiction project.


Due to the variability of manuscripts, my rates are also variable. Depending on what you are looking for and on the state of the manuscript, pricing can be between $.016 per word to $.04 per word.

As an example, if you have devoted time to self-editing your manuscript and it is relatively “clean”, I would place that particular project in the lower range ~$.016 per word. If your manuscript is just being brought into the world of editing and is in its raw and unedited state, this could fall in the upper range of $.04 per word. My rates for nonfiction function in precisely the same manner, however, due to increased care needed for accuracy, nonfiction rates begin at $.018 per word.

Quoting for a substantive edit is a complicated process that requires care and attention, and I am committed to providing that with each one of my clients. With that, I do have a request of you should you wish to query about substantive services–contemplate what it is that you want or need from an editor and come into this process with that in mind. That way, when we discuss the project, I can better serve your needs because we will both have a clear idea of what will be needed moving forward.

After seeing a sample of your manuscript, I can provide you with pricing and a proposal for an editing plan moving forward that you can consider at your discretion.

Developmental Editing Delivery

Should you decide that substantive editing is for you, you will receive:

  • A Microsoft Word document with Track Changes markup containing minimal editing suggestions (teaching examples) and expansive sidebar comments.
  • An editorial letter in PDF format. This letter will include analysis and advice on voice, style, characterization, plot/plot holes, inconsistencies, clunky narrative and concepts, pacing, tension, and dialogue. 

If you have specific questions that you would like answered, you are welcome to submit those along with the manuscript. I will do my best to address those after the initial reading and in the letter-writing process.