Substantive Edit

A substantive edit looks at story and scene structure, plot development, character development, dialogue, and general fiction techniques.

    I. Story structure

    A. Opening hook/scene

    B. Clear story arc–beginning, middle, end

    C. Inciting Incident

    D. External goals

    E. Internal goals

    F. Obstacles/conflict

    G. Climax

    H. Resolution


    II. Character development
    A. Unique/original characters

    B. Engaging main character(s)
    C. Flaws

    D. Distinct character voices

    E. Character emotions

    F. Realistic motivations
    G. Secondary characters—goals, depth, contribute to the story

    III. Scene structure
    A. Goal
    B. Conflict
    C. Disaster/reaction
    D. Dilemma
    E. Decision


    IV. Plot
    A. Unique story premise

    B. Pacing

    C. Backstory
    D. Scene necessity/redundancies

    V. Dialogue
    A. Balance between dialogue and narrative
    B. Tags vs. beats
    C. Natural
    D. Necessary

    VI. General fiction technique
    A. POV (point of view)
    B. Show vs. tell
    C. Voice
    D. Vivid description using 5 senses

    E. Unique prose rather than clichéd
    F. Repetition or redundancy
    G. Cause precedes effect
    H. Precise prose
    I. Foreshadowing

The fee for a substantive edit is $7 per page (using the industry standard of 250 words per page).

As with the other services, please format your manuscript in keeping with that which agents and editors require. Here are the basics:

  • 12 point Times New Roman font
  • Double spaced
  • No extra line between paragraphs
  • Margins set at one inch, for both sides and top/bottom
  • The beginning of each paragraph indented (a half inch)
  • A “slug” included in the header: Author last name / Title / Page number

Writers should transmit their manuscript electronically using Microsoft Word.

If you’re interested in discussing a substantive edit, please contact me by leaving a comment or by emailing me at rluellam at yahoo dot com. Please include your genre and the approximate length of your manuscript.

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