I provide developmental and substantive editing* services to fiction writers. When the fit is right, I also serve as a writing coach.
We’ll design an editorial process that meets your needs, but it typically follows one of two paths, both of which are preceded by:
- A discussion (preferably via the phone or in person) about what you’re looking for, and if my schedule would permit us to move ahead.
- A look at your manuscript—ideally the full draft, but at least a 30-page chunk of it along with a total word count—to help me judge if I think I’m a good fit for the project and to allow me to develop a reasonably accurate estimate of how many hours would be required to complete my work. (Your manuscript should be a Microsoft Word document, in industry-standard format—double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font.)
Once you’ve chosen which of the following paths makes sense for you, I’ll develop my best estimate of the total cost of the work, along with a proposed schedule. If you decide to move forward with me, I’ll ask for an advance of 1/3 of my estimated fee (via personal check or PayPal), with the balance due within 15 days of project completion.
Path #1: HIGH LEVEL ASSESSMENT AND REVISION NOTES
In many cases, launching directly into a full substantive edit is premature. What you might need more than anything just now is to have an experienced, focused reader—unrelated to you by marriage, blood or friendship—read the manuscript you’ve been wrestling with and respond to it honestly and intelligently.
I’ll read your book closely, then compose a detailed letter outlining my assessment of its strengths and weaknesses and suggesting specific revisions and larger revision strategies to help you prepare the manuscript for submission, or for a full substantive edit.
[Maybe this blows my “two paths” metaphor all to hell, but many if not most of my projects for individual authors (as opposed to publishing houses) start with this High Level Assessment and Revision Notes work and then, after the author takes another pass through the manuscript, proceed down the Full Substantive Edit path I’m about to describe. So for these folks, this is all just one path.]
Path #2: FULL SUBSTANTIVE EDIT
If this is my first experience with your book (that is, if I haven’t already taken an assessment-and-revision-notes pass through it), I’ll read it through once purely as a reader—no notes, no edits—and then double back to begin my editorial pass.
What you’ll get from me is a record (via Microsoft Word’s “track changes” tool) of every question, observation, concern and idea that occurs to me during both my first reading (my memory’s generally a sieve, but I do have a knack for retaining these first-blush responses) and during this second, more analytical pass.
Often, rather than spending a lot of time describing to you what I believe should be done to address an issue, I’ll dive in and edit away, even going so far as to compose short sections of new text illustrating the sorts of solutions I think you should consider. Of course, you can and should simply hit “reject” if any of these suggested changes don’t work for you. Your original text will be restored, and you can put the whole ugly episode behind you—though I hope that before you do so, you’ll pause to try to imagine what I was up to, and then perhaps take your own shot at addressing that issue.
If during my edit I begin to feel either my estimated fee or my deadline breathing down my neck, I’ll let you know the status of the work completed to date and discuss with you how you’d like us to proceed. (Again, this has yet to happen with anyone, but that’s the plan if you’re the first.)
When I’ve finished my editorial pass, I’ll compose an editorial letter containing my overall assessment of the book’s strengths, challenges, and unrealized opportunities.
I’m not a scorched-earth editor. Believe me, you’ll get every idea I can come up with to address every flaw I discover, but I won’t beat you over the head with them. I don’t hand down pronouncements, and rarely suggest sweeping changes. An argument could be made that I sometimes should suggest more of the latter, but I’m just not equipped to do so. My M.O. is to do everything I can to make what’s already on the page work as well as it possibly can.
This is thin ice I’m tiptoeing out on here, I realize, but I really do see myself as my clients’ collaborator. I find stories—really, almost any story—irresistible. Almost never in its unedited state, but in a kind of reflexive, Platonic ideal of it that springs into my head from the moment I start working with the story. Anything that impedes the story from reaching that potential gets flagged in the margin, targeted for an illustrative fix, or swept into my editorial letter along with suggestions for a more systemic remedy.
As I say, thin ice. How do I know my “ideal” of your story is a match for yours? I don’t—but history suggests I’ll come close enough to offer suggestions worth considering. Check out my Work and Kind Words page for others’ opinions of how close to the mark my edits generally fall.
* Along with a lot of other useful information, you’ll find good definitions of the different types of editing on the Northwest Independent Editors Guild website. There’s also a searchable directory of the organization’s 300+ editors, in case I’m busy or just don’t feel like a perfect fit for you. [If I sound like a booster, that’s because I am. I’m even a board member. It’s a great organization.]