What It Is: Assisting authors with the overall structure and content direction of a work.
Why You Might Need It: If your manuscript is still in the early stages and you’re unsure how you want to structure it — or even what you want to include — you may want to have a developmental editor work with you. These editors can either work as sounding boards or they can be more hands-on, taking existing material and providing it with structure and vision. Developmental editing is usually a process that happens over several weeks or even months while the editor works directly with the writer. For a one-time review of a rough-draft manuscript, consider getting a manuscript critique.
The onset of a book’s life cycle isn’t the only time a developmental editor can be useful. If the writer already has a lot of written material on a subject — in the form of notes, articles, lectures, speeches, etc. — the developmental editor can help craft those documents into a single cohesive format.
In some cases, the amount of work required for a specific project may be above and beyond that of a developmental editor and may actually require a co-author or ghostwriter.