Are you just getting started writing and struggling to get your thoughts coherently on paper or screen? Do you know what you want to say, but you want to discuss your outline or document flow? Do you know what you need to say, but need help identifying the right way to talk to your audience? An editor can help with all of these things in a big-picture or structural edit.
It is best to bring an editor in to perform this level of edit as early as possible in the writing process, as it is easier (and cheaper) to work with ideas and outlines than it is to rework an entire document. At this level, the editor works in collaboration with you. You will not hand over a document and get a clean and final document in return. At this stage, you and the editor will talk about ideas, organization, style, and tone. The editor will work with you to help you create a plan of attack.
As an editor, this is one of my favorite levels to help writers with as it involves much more collaboration and interaction than later stages in the document’s life. This is the stage where you can pull out the index cards, post-it notes, and colored pens and pencils. You discuss together where the document is going and together map out how to get there.
So, what services can you expect from an editor at the developmental or structural edit level?
- Organize ideas
- Review layout and presentation of material
- Identify the target audience and their characteristics
- Determine where figures, graphs, or appendices might be appropriate
- Begin compiling and correctly citing sources
- Determine which style guide you will follow
- Begin a document-specific style sheet
Working with an editor at this stage can be a challenge for some writers because of the level of the editor’s involvement (although this should be discussed and agreed upon in advance). However, it is important to remember that you and your editor share the same goal: to make the best possible document for your audience.