Are you interested in exploring your story? You can hire me as a coach!
What does a writing coach do? Well, pretty much whatever you need. From my perspective, I think of a coach as the one who helps you understand your story and characters, and turn this into a plot– that is, an expert plot-brainstormer and character-wrangler. That’s most useful when you’re just getting started with a story and want to figure it out ahead of time, or when you wrote a first draft and now want to reorganize it.
But if you’ve finished a book and aren’t satisfied, my coaching can help you determine what’s wrong and how to fix those issues. I can work with a manuscript
I do coaching in a low-key and affirmative way, focusing on solutions rather than just problems. I am a firm believer that we do our best thinking and creating when we feel free to experiment without criticism or shame. That’s the helpful and warm environment I’ll provide in our coaching sessions. (Don’t come to me for tough love. I can be tough, but in a generous way. 🙂
For plotting help, I work best with a synopsis, character sketch, or plot outline, not the entire manuscript. Because I charge $50 for each hour of preparation (that is, reading and annotating your work), and the same for an hour consultation session, the most cost-effective mode is probably a phone consult.
FOREST EDITING, OR TREE EDITING?
Speaking only for myself, as an editor I can do “forest” or
“trees” at one time. Content editing– characterization, plot, scene
design, structure– takes a different sort of assessment, a big picture.
As soon as I start concentrating on the words and sentences, I lose a
sense of the big picture. So a true copy edit would require a second pass
after the issues with content were addressed.
But if in a content edit I notice things like, say, that the mystery
doesn’t have enough clues, or the hero’s anger isn’t sufficiently
motivated, those really do have to be fixed before a copy edit can be
done. The draft has to be ready to go before copy editing as there will
be material added.
In traditional publishing, the main or content editor goes over the
manuscript early, asks for revisions, and then only when revisions are
approved, passes it on to a line editor who works with the sentences and
paragraphs. Sometimes it will then go to a copy editor, then the
manuscript would go back to the author (who often will “stet” or reverse
much of what the copy editor did
and formatted, the proofreader has at it. Now few publishers have that
many editors anymore, but that did recognize that each of those is a
I’d really think about what I needed from an editor. Most of us,
justifiably or not, think that by the time the book has passed through
our critique groups and beta readers, we’ve probably got the content–
plot, etc– where we want it. In that case, why not jump right to the
copy edit and let the editor focus on the mechanical issues? That’s one
particular skill, and is easier to do well if the editor can take a tight
focus and not try to shift to a wide vision.
(And writers like me who will argue with every change might do better to
just have a prospective copy edit and apply whatever fixes are accepted!
I’m really contentious with my sentences.:)
And then I’d get someone else to proofread. The cheap way is to trade
proofreading with another author. So much easier to catch someone else’s
Great storytellers are not always great writers. But a great storyteller probably doesn’t need a content editor– she already has good “story grammar,” knowing how to pace and dramatize and characterize. She might need help, however, making the prose match the story.
‘Wordsmiths’ might not need much line-editing, as they already experiment and edit sentences as they write. They might, however, benefit from story-editing, because they can’t always see the big picture of plot and character and scene.
DECIDE: WHAT ARE YOU ALREADY GOOD AT? WHAT DO YOU NEED HELP WITH?
Many writers are told, “You should hire an editor.” But as with so many writing issues, “editing” is a complex issue. There are many kinds of editing, and you’ll save money, aggravation, and time by determining what sort of or level of editing you might need.
Story (content or main editing):
Identifies problems in the story structure including things like motivation, logic, conflict, and drama. Plot, character, structure, scene, sequence.
Identifies and fixes prose problems, particularly on the sentence and paragraph level. By that Alicia means things like use of fragments, static and vague verbs etc. She comments that this very time-consuming and “most likely to result in conflict, because this very much involves the author voice”.
Rectifying grammar mistakes if they weren’t fixed in the line-edit, identifying potential uh-ohs (like the hero have blue eyes in chapter X and green eyes in chapter Y), questioning and checking research, and fixing formatting (chapter headings are all consistent etc.)
Finding and fixing typos, over-used or duplicated words and phrases, formatting errors.
Probably most writers do need a copy-edit and proofread just because those involve fairly arcane decisions and training, and it’s next to impossible to do that close a reading of our own work. But not all need story-editing. Not all need line-editing. I would say I don’t actually need line-editing, as I’m pretty strong on the prose level. But I can never tell when the tension has dropped in my plotting, or when I love characters a tad too much so that readers will be alienated. So at the story level, I often need help, which is why I have a great critique group, and brainstorm a lot with several discerning friends.
(For an example of hiring a freelance editor, here is great article by author India Drummond.)
SO…. you can save money by figuring out the sort of editing you need. In other words, being very clear when you’re paying someone to “edit” exactly what level of “editing” you’re asking for. And depending on your own strengths and weaknesses, you might well be capable of successfully taking on certain aspects of the editing process yourself.
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