If you've finished a draft of a book and want to send it out, or self-publish, but you're not sure it's ready - or you know it's not ready but can't see what it needs - you start looking around for someone like me.
I offer creative, in-depth story analysis, with suggestions based on the intent of the manuscript and on your strengths; support and advice on how to improve your writing in general and how to deal with all the problems of being a writer; and copyediting. I can do all of these or just one.
Why Not Just Send the Manuscript to an Agent?
Some experienced writers need only a polish and a few minor fixes, or to see their book through new eyes, others a thorough analysis and step-by-step suggestions for a complete rewrite. Each client has different needs, but any writer who's gone through the publishing process knows an editor is essential and publishers aren't really providing them anymore. There are still publishers who will take books that they know need work, which their editors will assist with, but more often they don’t want to bother with something that isn’t close to perfect. Agents are, if anything, more demanding, and are very likely to tell you what’s wrong with your book in terms so vague that you have no idea what they mean, much less how to fix it. You can spend a lot of time trying to please an agent who may not know herself why she sort of likes your book and sort of doesn’t.
Criticism, the Good and the Bad
Criticism can sometimes be hard to hear. Support and kindness are necessary for most of us to benefit from it. I don’t just want to tell you what’s wrong; I want to tell you in a way that makes you excited about your work. I won't gloss over problems, but I will guide you toward the satisfaction of building on your strengths, wielding new tools and tricks, and learning how to tell your story. I've learned through the often-terrifying experience of being a writer that criticism can depress and confuse, but it doesn't have to be like that.
I pinpoint where the weaknesses are, where the story loses steam or becomes implausible, note if it’s stuffed full of characters and scenes that don’t belong, or if it’s as yet only a sketch, with the important parts missing. Any decent editor can do that. How to fix what’s wrong is a trickier task, and in this area my 30-year experience of writing fiction is very helpful. I’ve faced most of the problems you’re facing. I’ve worked out how to make things happen without absurd coincidence, how and when to summarize, how to weave information into a moving story.
What usually happens with a client is that he incorporates some of my ideas, and others work to spark his imagination. He listens to my six ways to get around x-y-z, takes a few days or weeks to think about it, and then comes up with a solution I wouldn't have dreamed of, one that takes the novel where it secretly wanted to go. Having someone tell you all the ways your story could be told often clarifies how you want it to be told; at its best a conversation with a careful reader/editor enlarges your understanding of what’s possible in writing, and what’s particularly exciting to you.
I also do copy edits, focusing on grammar, spelling, factual errors and continuity (making sure pertinent details about character and locales don't change in the course of the novel, a mistake that often occurs when people revise). This is particularly important for self-publishers, since you can't know what you don't know! I've found mistakes in my novel published 20 years ago—my mistakes to begin with, but not fixed by the editor or copy editor of my very painstaking publishing house. If that can happen, and it does all the time, imagine what you might be missing in your manuscript, even if you've been writing for years.
I Write Articles, Newsletters, etc, as Well as Edit
I have extensive experience writing and editing promotional articles, ads, professional book reviews, press releases and newsletters. I can correct and polish any kind of writing for professionals and businesspeople. Foreign students--for whom English is not the first language--can benefit from having reports and papers edited for smoothness and clarity. I don't write papers for students but will do reasonable editing. Small jobs welcome.