Developmental Editing Checklist

There are so many different types of editors that it's confusing! Often, when writers think of an "editor" they think that this is someone who will correct typos, misspells and incorrect grammar. That is definitely ONE type of editor, yes. That's a copy editor. On the home page of my website there is a button called "editing defined" and there you can read up on the various types of editors out there.

Developmental editors like me come way before the nitty-gritty of grammar and spelling corrections. In my experience, as a writer and editor of many years, THE most important priority for writers should be the quality of the manuscript itself. Formatting, spelling/grammar - all of those things should take place LAST, when you are already as sure as you can be that the manuscript is excellent. You can have great cover art, you can have a clever marketing plan, you can have a wonderful platform - but ultimately readers will decide whether they enjoy your story, whether it is narrative nonfiction or fiction. It is very democratic, at the end of the day. That's how you get good reviews, that's how you get good word-of-mouth, that's how you interest book clubs and get people to have conversations about your book. If the manuscript isn't working - nothing else matters. That's why I am here.

Here are some of the things that I look for as a developmental editor:


  • Is it interesting and engrossing?

  • Is there enough to sustain the story through the final page?

  • Are there too many sub-plots, not enough sub-plots?

  • Are major plot issues resolved?

  • Is plot introduced in an engaging way?

  • Does the story make sense?

  • Are there hooks; are they logical; are they related to the rest of the plot?

  • Is plot engaging, inevitable, believable?

  • Is the plot full enough or does it feel thin?

  • Is the premise right for the story that’s been written?

  • Has reader expectation been whetted and then satisfied?

  • Is there a focus or is the plot scattered?

  • Does the story start in the right place?


  • Are lead characters interesting enough for the story?

  • Do lead characters have sufficient motivation to move through the plot?

  • Is the antagonist strong enough, a good complement to the protagonist?

  • Do characters have strengths and weaknesses?

  • Are character goals clear?

  • Are characters well-rounded?

  • Are all featured characters vital to the plot?

  • Is character motivation appropriate for the story that developed from it?


  • Is it conveyed sufficiently?

  • Is it appropriate for the story?

  • Would a different setting work better?

  • Is setting used to advance plot, to create tone, to increase tension?

  • Are readers given a clear sense of place and time for each scene?


  • Does dialogue advance the story?

  • Is dialogue appropriate to character?

  • Is dialogue appropriate to the scene?

  • Does dialogue increase conflict?

Point of view

  • Is it the right POV for the story and for the scene; would another be better?

  • Is POV clear?

  • Is POV maintained within scenes?

  • Should POV change with scenes?

  • Who should be the viewpoint character in each scene?


  • Does pace vary?

  • Is the pace of each scene appropriate?

  • Does pace influence tone?

  • Does pace increase/decrease tension?


  • Is there sufficient conflict in each scene and between characters?

  • Does conflict escalate?

General questions and reminders

  • Has the writer made the reader care about the character and his dilemma?

  • Is the story entertaining?

  • Is there enough story to the story?

  • Is the story different enough to catch a reader’s attention?

  • Does the story move fast enough?

  • Does the story catch either the reader’s mind or heart, perhaps both?

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@2021 Julie Gray | Substantive & Developmental Editing | Hello@JulieGray.Info | +972-52-748-0934 

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