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Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) [Hardcover]

by Scott Norton
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 23, 2009 9780226595146 978-0226595146 0

Editing is a tricky business. It requires analytical flair and creative panache, the patience of a saint and the vision of a writer. Transforming a manuscript into a book that edifies, inspires, and sells? That’s the job of the developmental editor, whose desk is the first stop for many manuscripts on the road to bookdom—a route ably mapped out in the pages of Developmental Editing.

Author Scott Norton has worked with a diverse range of authors, editors, and publishers, and his handbook provides an approach to developmental editing that is logical, collaborative, humorous, and realistic. He starts with the core tasks of shaping the proposal, finding the hook, and building the narrative or argument, and then turns to the hard work of executing the plan and establishing a style.

Developmental Editing includes detailed case studies featuring a variety of nonfiction books—election-year polemic, popular science, memoir, travel guide—and authors ranging from first-timer to veteran, journalist to scholar. Handy sidebars offer advice on how to become a developmental editor, create effective illustration programs, and adapt sophisticated fiction techniques (such as point of view, suspense, plotting, character, and setting) to nonfiction writing.  

Norton’s book also provides freelance copyeditors with a way to earn higher fees while introducing more creativity into their work lives. It gives acquisitions, marketing, and production staff a vocabulary for diagnosing a manuscript’s flaws and techniques for transforming it into a bestseller. And perhaps most importantly, Developmental Editing equips authors with the concrete tools they need to reach their audiences.

Frequently Bought Together

Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) + The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) + The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
Price for all three: $66.22

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Editorial Reviews


“In Developmental Editing, Scott Norton discloses the analysis and techniques that underlie the seemingly magical act of turning an idea—or a flawed manuscript—into a good book. Norton gives aspiring editors the tools they need to do this demanding job. He gives authors the understanding they need to take advantage of an editor's advice. Finally, he gives authors without the good fortune to work with a developmental editor a way to look at their own work with a critical eye.”
(Beth Luey, author of Handbook for Academic Authors and Revising Your Dissertatio 2008-08-11)

“Scott Norton is no seat-of-the-pants developmental editor. He’s a man with a method—practical, detailed, lucid, engaging. Even the most battle-tested editors and agents will rethink their tactics after reading this field guide to manuscript development.”

(Susan Wallace Boehmer, executive editor for trade book development, Harvard Univ 2008-08-21)

“Scott Norton’s book should be required reading for publishers who want to understand developmental editing and how it can improve their books.”

(Michael Morgan, president and CEO, Morgan & Claypool Publishers 2008-08-21)

“I’ve done a fair amount of developmental editing, yet Norton has managed to fill his book with things I didn’t know—or had forgotten or stopped being very disciplined about. Editors of every stripe—DEs, line editors, copyeditors—can learn much from this fresh, readable, and practical book.”

(Wendalyn Nichols Copyediting 2009-05-27)

About the Author

Scott Norton is director of editing, design, and production at the University of California Press.

Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (March 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226595146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226595146
  • ASIN: 0226595145
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I know what I want to be when I grow up... June 6, 2009
I heard about Scott Norton's Developmental Editing from a classmate--a colleague of the author--in Berkeley's Professional Sequence in Editing. I had never before heard the term "developmental editing," but immediately ordered the book, which I rarely do without the benefit of supporting reviews (since the book was just coming out, there were none at the time). My first response: This is an extraordinary book, and should be added to any short list of essential resources for editing, publishing, and writing.

As defined by Scott Norton, developmental editing is distinct from copyediting and substantive editing. The copyeditor deals with the nuts and bolts of clarity, cohesion, consistency, and correctness (the "4 Cs" according to Amy Einsohn's The Copyeditor's Handbook), while the substantive editor has license to revise at the word, sentence, and paragraph levels.

The developmental editor (DE) operates at the nexus of art, craft, and the market realities of today's hyper-competitive publishing industry. The DE simultaneously serves three constituencies: as first advocate for the reader; as protector of message and voice for the author; as field operative for the publisher, enhancing its reputation while maximizing the book's market prospects. Ideally the DE is brought on board very early on. More often, the DE will be tasked with improving or even rescuing an existing manuscript by applying Scott's developmental blueprint, which also forms the structure of his book: Assuming the author has provided a manuscript with "good bones," the DE first discovers and draws out the most compelling concept. That concept is then narrowed to a sharp thesis, and supporting content is restructured into a rhythmic balance of engaging narrative in service to a cogent argument.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Book on Editing June 4, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In teaching courses on editing at UC Berkeley extension, I assigned various books that focused on grammar, usage, proofreading, copyediting, and publishing. I searched for a book on developmental editing. None. "The Chicago Manual of Style fifteenth edition, merely mentions the subject. Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) is unique.

Scott Norton defines developmental editing as "a significant structuring or restructuring of a manuscript's discourse" and observes that unlike copyediting it cannot be "demonstrated with brief examples. So I've adopted the strategy of creating extended narrative examples. Although fictitious and intentionally exaggerated, these 'case studies' reflect the range of authors, clients, and developmental assignments."

The artfully constructed case studies Norton presents engage the reader throughout the book -- from the first chapter, "Concept: Shaping the Proposal" to the final chapter, "Display: Dressing Up the Text." Two examples of his creative case-study approach follow.

"Thesis: Finding the Hook" (pp. 48-67) begins with the developmental editor (DE) taking a first look at the book proposal and noting that the two coauthors, an anthropologist and a sociologist, both second generation Mexican Americans "had too much to say on their subject, and many of their theses contradicted each other" (p. 51).

The assigned DE, Bud Zallis, a freelancer, made preliminary lists of topics and the eight theses he found in the manuscript.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Editing nonfiction September 4, 2011
By Sandra
"Developmental Editing" is written for freelance editors of nonfiction, not fiction. A few things could be of use to fiction editors too, but overall, I would recommend another book if you are looking for a book on editing fiction.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for non-fiction September 22, 2012
By Susan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a very good, detailed book about being a developmental editor for non-fiction work. I was disappointed because I wanted more information about fiction, but that was my mistake. A few of the points could be applied to fiction writers, but not many. But the book is well-written and would be immensely helpful for anyone desiring to learn how to work with non-fiction.

Susan Uttendorfsky
Owner, Adirondack Editing
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Textbook Quality August 14, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a comprehensive, complex, subtle and humorous manual on all aspects of developmental editing. It should be on the shelf of every author, publisher and editor. I can testify that my thinking, writing and editing have already improved! Simply brilliant.

You will learn to: choose the main concept of the book according to the author's vision and the needs of his market; rework the TOC accordingly; navigate the intricacies of collaboration between author, DE and publisher; extract the main thesis out of the main concept; tell the difference between theses and topics; create a working title that will reflect the main thesis; locate all narrative threads (yes, even nonfiction does have narrative threads) and comb them into an organized whole - choosing which are main, which subordinate, and how will they be ordered in the text; choose from different kinds of argument, and learn how to find and structure the main line of argument; write a developmental plan and all other needed documents; create a balanced rhythm by editing for pace; design opening and closing transitions according to the main thesis of each chapter; organize the conclusions, from smaller ones to more fundamental ones, and decide on their placement; improve stylistic elements like voice, tone, and diction, as well as all aspects of visual book design.

I am so happy I read this book! It feels as if I've taken a class in DE. Bravo Scott!

Note to the author if he is reading this: sorry to see the Kindle version currently discontinued - hoping that this is because it is being improved. It had minor troubles in the formatting of the Tables - but I have faith that these will be fixed, esp. now, when automatic book updating is possible.
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