How many times have you read a romance novel and wondered why the protagonist must be saved? Editing women in romance novels requires a lot of attention to detail to avoid cliches and overused plots. According to Scott Norton’s book, Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers, a developmental edit can help restructure a manuscript and prepare the story for publishing. What makes developmental editing fun is the ability to work with the author on characterization, plot, structure, pacing, gaps in narrative, and believability of characters—all of which are emphasized in Peter Ginna’s What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing. A developmental editor must be prepared to answer questions that authors may have about their suggestions. Editors should avoid stereotypes and approach romance manuscripts and female protagonists with empathy and understanding.

Editors should ask themselves what goals the female protagonist has apart from her love interest so that readers can understand that the female protagonist has other goals than simply finding the love of her life. Do readers want to see the female protagonist drop everything to be with her partner? As a reader, I want to get to know the female protagonist and see her thrive on her own both before and during the romance. When it comes to editing, developmental editing can help authors give female protagonists goals and ambitions. According to Norton’s Developmental Editing, editors can work with authors by bringing in marketing knowledge to help keep the reader in mind. This may help show how female readers view their female protagonist. What do women want to see in newer romance novels?

Authors may need help achieving a romantic plot that is new and avoids discrimination. The plot where a partner saves the female protagonist has been overused and tells women they need to be saved. Editors can assist authors and make suggestions that avoid the woman needing to be rescued. Why can’t the female protagonist simply want the romance because it adds value to her life? Why does romance have to be the center of her life? Editors can help authors form fresh ideas and bring exciting new plots to romance novels. In Norton’s Developmental Editing, he emphasizes that editors and authors should brainstorm together when it comes to plot and characterization. This can be incredibly helpful when editing women in romance novels. Why should the female protagonist give up everything to be with her partner? Does the partner have work to do on their own to make a romance work with the protagonist? As a reader, I want to see female protagonists following their dreams alongside their partners instead of dropping everything for a romance. Whatever the plot, editors should have empathy for the female protagonist and see how she feels in the situations that she endures. According to Ginna’s What Editors Do, editors can bring subject expertise to see where the author is coming from when working on a project. As readers, we crave and latch onto what the protagonist feels; as editors, it’s our job to help authors prevent stereotypes and show empathy for female characters.

When performing a developmental edit, editors should put themselves in the character’s shoes and see what drives them. According to Lisa Cron’s Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, humans desire feeling the emotions of the protagonist and what they endure. There should be an awareness of the reader and what readers like. Can female readers relate to the female protagonist? How can editors help authors learn what female readers want without squashing what they want to say to the world? What about men writing about women? Editors can assist male and female authors in creating strong female characters. A brainstorming session can be done with the author to achieve this writing goal. A developmental edit shows authors what can be improved and what can be omitted. Editors have the opportunity to approach romance manuscripts with a fresh perspective and a new approach. By doing this, developmental editors are taking the next step in helping to shape fiction.

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