boutique services

back to services
BOOK A CONSULTATION

What sets the famous apart from the forgotten? Leaving something extraordinary behind.

I love working with authors one-on-one. It’s incredibly rewarding to see authors go from idea to a physical book—their first or next.

Schedule coaching and mentoring sessions to fit your schedule: every other week or monthly. Wherever you are in the writing, editing, and publication process, that's where we'll begin. Benefit from writing guidance and so much more.

As your coach, I’ll help you

  • Discover your vision—the “why” that drives you to write this book
  • Define success
  • Decide if this is a one-shot goal or a life change
  • Understand the various publishing options
  • Know if you’re prepared to market your book yourself
  • Uncover the real “who” that is your reader
  • Ferret out hours to write without judgment (no self-editing)
  • Feel comfortable in your author skin
  • Identify your learning style
  • Design strategies to remove roadblocks to your word-count goal
  • Make it OK to “write shitty first drafts,” as author Anne Lamott advises
  • Turn feedback into action (author Michael Crichton reminds us that “writing is rewriting”)
  • Take ownership of your follow-through
  • Recognize that revision time may be even longer than completing your first draft
  • Re-ignite your creative spark when creativity stops flowing
  • Be open-minded and learn how to improve your craft
  • Imagine achieving your goal of a first draft
  • Track your progress
  • Explore book titles and subtitles
  • Work with a great publishing team (designer, proofreader, marketing specialist)
  • Repair your ego after an edit
  • Strategize to build your platform
  • Celebrate your milestones

Tell me about your coaching and mentoring needs. 


Getting a little help from your friends

coaching

back to services

BOOK A CONSULTATION

Overseeing the dozens of steps involved in transforming your stellar idea into a quality, professional-looking, highly readable book requires organizational skills, vision, and patience.

In broad strokes, here are key functions I'll perform:

  • Get to know your idea and goal inside out
  • Develop a project plan for writing, editing, designing, proofreading, printing, and distribution
  • Assemble your outsourced professional team (a marketing specialist is optional)
  • Coordinate and monitor team tasks
  • Track progress and bring your project to fruition

Project management prices will depend on the length and complexity of your book as well as the scope of my writing and editing involvement.

Trusted, talented team members are also committed to our NDA.



from start to finish

project management

everything you wanted to know . . . and weren't afraid to ask

FAQ—Frequently asked questions

| WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? LET'S START COLLABORATING TODAY! |  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? let's start collaborating TODAY!  |  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? let's start collaborating TODAY! | WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? let's start collaborating TODAY| WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? LET'S START COLLABORATING TODAY! |

How does all this work? This is a great spot to explain your process a little, what do you start with? What happens after that? And after that? Break it all down in simple terms - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

details on how it goes down

FAQ-2: how does this work?

05.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
04.
03.
02.
01.

Another spot to put a great answer for a common question - just be detailed, but also keep it simple and short, not too long, but not too short - no pressure, haha  Another spot to put a great answer for a common question - just be detailed, but also keep it simple and short, not too long, but not too short - no pressure, haha. Another spot to put a great answer for a common question - just be detailed, but also keep it simple and short, not too long, but not too short - no pressure, haha

A little short answer here

FAQ-3: Another question here

05.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
04.
03.
02.
01.

Another spot to put a great answer for a common question - just be detailed, but also keep it simple and short, not too long, but not too short - no pressure, haha  Another spot to put a great answer for a common question - just be detailed, but also keep it simple and short, not too long, but not too short - no pressure, haha. Another spot to put a great answer for a common question - just be detailed, but also keep it simple and short, not too long, but not too short - no pressure, haha

A little short answer here

FAQ-4: Another question here

05.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
04.
03.
02.
01.

Be a little braggy here - talk about how you've been in their shoes, what helped you, and why that makes you a great coach!  - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

i've been where you're at today!

FAQ-5: why work with me?

05.
04.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
03.
02.
01.

Be a little braggy here - talk about how you've been in their shoes, what helped you, and why that makes you a great coach!  - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

i've been where you're at today!

FAQ-6: why work with you?

05.
04.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
03.
02.
01.

Be a little braggy here - talk about how you've been in their shoes, what helped you, and why that makes you a great coach!  - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

now you see me . . . now you don't!

FAQ-7: Ghostwriters are invisible?

05.
04.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
03.
02.
01.

Be a little braggy here - talk about how you've been in their shoes, what helped you, and why that makes you a great coach!  - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

i've been where you're at today!

FAQ-8:  behind the 8-ball

05.
04.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
03.
02.
01.

Be a little braggy here - talk about how you've been in their shoes, what helped you, and why that makes you a great coach!  - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

i've been where you're at today!

faq-9: nine lives for the cat

05.
04.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
03.
02.
01.

Be a little braggy here - talk about how you've been in their shoes, what helped you, and why that makes you a great coach!  - motivate your reader, mention what most would have in common with your ideal client. You're basically using this section to confirm your readers suspicions that you are right for them. What do you want from them, and what will you be giving them in return? About this long would be great! 

i've been where you're at today!

faq-10: claim your fame!

05.
04.
06.
07.
08.
09.
10.
03.
02.
01.

I have a concept that I think would make a good nonfiction book. Can you help me figure out if it’s worthwhile?

Absolutely. Brainstorming at the concept stage is a great time to discover if your idea is timely, if there's a target audience for it, and if a book is the best way to present your concept. 

Wherever you are in the nonfiction book process—scribbled notes on a cocktail napkin to a full manuscript—we’ll explore your idea within the context of the following considerations:

  • WHO is your reader?
  • WHY are you the right person to write this book?
  • WHAT’S your goal in writing this book? 

The reasons for writing your book are as individual as you are. Are you introducing an invention or big idea? Enlightening or illuminating problems that you resolved using your expertise, skills, wit, wisdom, or spiritual practice? Entertaining with humor or powerful stories? Sparking creativity? Inspiring hope or catalyzing transformation?

How would you respond to the following questions?

  • WHAT’S your core message?
  • WHAT problem do you solve for the reader: in other words, what need does your advice or message fulfill, how does it change their life?
  • WHAT other books have tackled this same issue?
  • HOW is your approach unique? How powerful is your angle and opening hook?
  • WHERE do you want my help? Do you yet know?

Who needs a writing collaborator? How do I know if writing collaboration is right for me?

I’ll answer your second question first. Just as you pick your friends and partners, you choose to work with a specific writing collaborator based on many subtle and not-so-subtle cues. Among them are the chemistry and immediate bond of trust between you. Cementing those signals that you’re both a good fit are a few more positive cues. For example, the collaborator not only listens carefully to your story and goal but also quickly slides into your vision and gets it! You recognize that the collaborator knows that although this is your book, you’re both driven by the same aspiration—to turn your dream into reality.

So, who needs a collaborative writer?

  • First-time authors embarking on a magnificent publishing adventure but who feel more than a little intimidated by their projects’ scope. They may even feel frozen.
  • Seasoned or branded authors with a powerful platform as well as subject-matter experts (SMEs) and others who have too much on their plates to write a book. You might be surprised by how many best-selling authors rely on collaborators to keep pace with publishing demands.
  • Traditional publishers with manuscripts that need facelifts or extreme makeovers.

If you become my collaborative writer, will I still need an editor?

The short answer is that whatever your writing and editing needs, I’ll work with you to achieve your goal. Labels, like boxes, are confining, while writing is a fluid art. Collaborative writing and editing, therefore, involve both art and science. They’re two sides of the same coin.

We write with abandon, get the words and ideas down, pour out our souls and all the wisdom our hearts long to share. Then we take a deep breath and step back from the words’ work and let it rest. That small space permits us look at the work fresh—with a reader’s eyes. Only after a little distance can we more objectively edit: revise, revise again, and polish.

Once we’ve gotten a solid draft of the collaborative writing, I’ll put on a different hat and begin the line-editing process. Again, art and science. Since writing is a fluid process, thorough editing often involves rewriting sentences or paragraphs—with your approval, of course. When we feel all is said and done, and the work is in the layout stage, it’s time for a proofreader.

Ironically, the longer answer to this question involves approaching a collaborative writing project with a mindset known as Occam’s Razor. Some 650 years ago, Franciscan friar William of Ockham introduced the concept that today more or less boils down to “less is more."

Here’s an example of the Occam’s Razor principle: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” In a nutshell, the simplest solution to a problem—the one that requires the fewest assumptions—is often the right one. That’s why it’s also called the Law of Economy, or the Law of Parsimony.

Long before Ockham, Aristotle recognized that parsimony and precision go hand-in-hand as we make sense of and unravel life’s baffling problems.

What’s this got to do with me? you ask. This principle is front and center when we’re jockeying the pros and cons of writing the books of our dreams, particularly business and how-to books.

We know that to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose. Our reasons for reading a book can be scattershot and impulsive or focused and purposeful. Sometimes a reader needs a book to deliver a little vital inspiration. Other times, that reader just wants to escape into a fantasy world or laugh out loud. Readers don’t always want to learn something. Of course, sometimes, they do and need step-by-step instructions for how to be successful, rich, or thin. Or how to parent special needs children. Or bake bread.

Throughout the ages, writers have met readers’ wants and needs with four major genres of literature—nonfiction, fiction, drama, and poetry, along with dozens of sub-genres. Amazon subdivides the sub-genres into what feels like infinitesimally small units.

In fact, Amazon comes up with sixteen thousand book categories.

Occam’s Razor reminds us to focus on two vital considerations. The first pertains to the genre and scope of your book. The second pertains to the language you use to convey the message in the genre you’ve chosen to write. The first usually sets the stage for the second.

There are distinctively different styles at each end of the writing spectrum. At one end, you’ll find writers who are masters of word economy: Occam’s Razor. If that’s your preference and chosen style, my writing and editing will be attuned to maintaining it consistently.

On the other end are writers whose style is to craft sentences that are rich and sensory, dense with vivid imagery, flowing with symbolism, similes, and metaphors. Target readers will most assuredly be those for whom lush language is wildly, lavishly, and abundantly satisfying.

I’m eager for you to tell me what you read and who are your favorite authors. Your reading choices and experience color your writing style. No style yet? No problem. If you’re a new author, we’ll discover your voice, define your own unique style, and practice the art of crafting language that not only feels right for you and your message but also that hooks your target reader.

When an author dangles before readers the perfect lure—whether those readers are attracted to spare or splendiferous language—they’ll eagerly take the hook. Sometimes, the latter is a surprise, and readers will spin and dance on the end of a line in the sparkling brilliance of the writing, forgetting altogether to thrash or resist.


What's the "Discovery Process"?

At Art of Discovery, the process to get you from idea to book takes broad brush strokes to capture the multi-faceted person you are and the way you express yourself when you’re being authentic. We’ll discover and play to that sweet spot on the sliding scale of parsimony and excess verbiage. But before we consider how to showcase your voice and style—whether you’re a subject-matter expert (SME), a thriller writer, or a modern quilt artist—let’s step back and bring your work and ideas into the harsh, flaw-revealing daylight and see them through the lens of your intended audience.

As you heighten your awareness of readers’ problems, fears, wants, and needs, you hone your capacity to “write to the reader.” The more you know about your book’s target market, the better equipped you are to make razor-sharp revisions that refine your story until it virtually tells itself.

When you muster the courage to evaluate your content this way, you increase the precision of your message with each revision.

Where do we start? With a call or email.

I’ll ask you to tell me what your book is about—its core message—in a sentence or two.

When your reader is considering buying your book, what instantaneous message do you want your book’s title and cover to convey? What promise do your title and cover make?

As we know, readers read to fill different needs. From entertainment to enlightenment. From learning how to build a business to how to build a better birdhouse. From growing spiritually to growing spirulina. (Yes, you can grow spirulina at home.)

From your readers' point of view, will they easily see what’s in it for them?

We'll consider the competition for your readers’ time and money. What extra value can you add that gives your book the edge?

So, these three strategies will get your book off to a good start:

  • Hook your readers in the first sentence.
  • Say well the things that need to be said in a logical structure.
  • Exceed readers’ expectations.

Together, we'll meet these challenges to create a marketable book you'll be proud to author.

Who owns the copyright of my book? I don’t understand.

You own the copyright of your book. You’re the author. Let’s clear up who is who among your book’s cast and crew during a collaboration.

AUTHOR: We may think the author and writer are one and the same person. But, publication statistics inform us that’s not always so. Sixty percent of best sellers and hundreds of thousands of books that never make that list are written by ghostwriters or collaborative writers.

The person whose vision, ideas, stories, or material make up the concept of the book is the “author”—no matter how much help you get developing that idea and turning it into a publishable book.

The author has the legal, moral, and fiscal responsibility for the book. That’s you! And you own the copyright from the moment the first word is set into some tangible form.

WRITER:  The writer crafts the concepts and components of story into words that express the author’s ideas and communicate the author’s message to the reader. When the author has neither the time nor skill, a creative collaboration makes a book possible.

Through experience and training, a collaborator has developed strong writing, research, and organizational skills. The writer enhances, enlarges upon, elaborates on, whittles down, refocuses, massages, and/or polishes the author's message and its presentation and helps the author bring to readers the best possible work.

The author and collaborative writer often share credit as co-authors on a book's cover. But there are other options to explore.

I need writing help, but I don't want to share book cover credit. Do I need a ghostwriter?

Yes. You need a ghostwriter. When a writer does the heavy lifting on your book but yours is the only name on the cover, your collaborator is a ghostwriter.

Ghostwriters are—by nature—story architects who look and act a lot like co-authors. But the very nature of the term ghostwriter defines the relationship. Now you see them. Now you don’t. Contract confidentiality clauses and nondisclosure agreements drape a cloak of invisibility around the ghostwriter that only the author can lift.

Because collaborative writers who are co-authors share cover credit—which is valuable advertising—their rates can be discounted to reflect this benefit. Ghostwriters don't have that advertising luxury, and their rates take invisibility into account. Some authors express gratitude to their ghostwriters by recognizing them in acknowledgments for their editing or coaching contributions, without revealing to readers that “they wrote the book” on the foundation of the author’s idea. While each author and ghostwriter relationship is unique, they’re all characterized by confidentiality and invisibility.

Ghostwriters are more than word workhorses who listen to your story and tell it so you don’t have to. We’re committed to telling your story in a way that resonates with your reader. Among my writing talents is helping first-time authors discover an appropriate voice, tone, and style for a particular subject and a very specific target audience.

As your ghostwriter, I act as facilitator, director, producer, coach, traffic cop, therapist, and fire chief to help keep your book from burning you out.

Publishing as an indie, or independent, author—if that’s the route you’re planning to take—is not for the faint of heart. When the unexpected happens, count on your ghostwriter’s skills and experience to resuscitate and revitalize a stalled or seemingly lifeless project. We put your yet-to-be-started, incomplete, or abandoned manuscript into a hat and pull out a book. Magic happens when skilled writers do what they do best.

We’re not miracle workers. Well, maybe we are. We're definitely the ones who are sleepless in Seattle—or Fairhope or Unalaska or Mystic. We're the creators behind many of the world’s great books, speeches, essays, and treatises. Ghostwriters have secretly keystroked the gazillion words that have appeared between the covers of bestsellers in every conceivable genre.

Here are a few prescriptions we fill:

  • Fashion the missing pieces of a tale and stitch them together.
  • Ignite readers’ imagination and expand their perspective.
  • Quench readers’ thirst for love or lust or wanderlust.
  • Explain why things work as they do or how to fix them when they don’t.

When it comes to how stories play out, many new and established authors let their hearts lead the way. They want to include everything that’s important to them. While we ghostwriters must also feel and hear the heartbeat of an author’s passion and get in sync with it, we have a duty think like a reader in winnowing content. It's in achieving balance that books work.



CLICK HERE for more details about ghostwriting.

What's the difference between a ghostwriter and a collaborator?

Ghostwriters are collaborative writers. But not all collaborative writers are ghostwriters.

What is collaborative writing? Digging and getting dirty in the garden with you. Or getting dirty instead of you. Either way, it’s a matter of visibility, which, in publishing, is cover credit. Your neighbor knows who planted, weeded, and harvested the bounty in the garden that only came about because of your vision.

If I work under the cloak of darkness, I’m a ghostwriter. In the sunshine, we each grow our brands. This is synonymous with co-authoring, even if both of us don’t get equal weight on the front cover.

Not all collaborative writing projects start from scratch—the optimal place. Sometimes gardens were abandoned and overgrown. Even when I salvage a manuscript that feels irredeemable, I remain rooted in the belief that words are powerful tools to affect change.

To pick up an abandoned manuscript, however, we’ll need to evaluate the impact of subsequent internal or external events on the original focus and goal of your book. When the assessment is that salvage efforts will be worthwhile, we’ll discover or (re-discover) your most compelling voice and powerfully bring your story and message to your target audience.

Both collaborative writing and ghostwriting are a partnership that can feel like a marriage. We’re both committed to each other for the duration of the project and, sometimes, long after. We become each other’s mirror, sounding board, yin and yang, devil’s advocate. You’ve got the picture. That’s not bad. That’s very good. Your book will benefit.

How does collaborative writing work?

Collaboration is an alliance of solidarity. Our first meeting is devoted to interviewing and learning about each other. We’re discovering clues. Is the other a good listener, an ideas person, an insatiable learner, an avid reader? Does that person have an open mind?

You’ll need to feel that I’m genuinely interested in your subject. You’ll know from my questions and reflections that I may already be imagining new angles and approaches to your subject that may have stymied you. Maybe you'd like to try them. That's always your choice.

Collaboration doesn’t require that I be an expert in your subject matter. In fact, there’s an advantage to approaching a topic fresh, as your reader might. Your book’s genre and subject matter will determine how much research I need to conduct to cover its scope.

We’ll discuss if becoming or being an indie author is right for you or if your sole focus is on finding a traditional publisher.

Our clear, quality communications will help ensure that your book conveys with clarity your vision, your voice, your tone, and your message.

My commitment is to connect you with your reader authentically and to help you earn and honor that bond of trust. In buying your book, readers trust that you have the expertise to help them become richer, smarter, happier, or healthier individuals. Maybe your book will show them effective leadership strategies. Or demonstrate how they can have fun and be more interesting in social settings. Or teach them techniques to reduce stress at work. Or share family secrets for becoming the best bread baker on the block.

We’ll discuss your desired timeline and technologies for developing your manuscript. I work using Microsoft Word “Track Changes.” What's familiar to you? What are you open to learning? 

The collaborative relationship is built on trust and integrity. Your book's development may reveal your innermost self, personal or trade secrets, intellectual property, expertise, methods, practices, insights, loves, hates, successes, failures, judgments, prejudices, passions, fears, grandfather’s war diary, Mom’s secret journal, 
and lots more.

Customized collaboration complements your personality or business chemistry type and builds on the strength of your idea and your commitment to achieving your goal.

We’ve brushed up against these strategies before, but let’s review. On your journey to publication, we’ll:

  • Identify your WHO. Envision one reader and get inside that reader’s head.
  • Discover your WHY—sharpen your focus on your business or personal North Star.
  • Fire your imagination and define your WHAT—the core message of your book.
  • Refine your WHAT—what makes your message unique? Is it approached with a fresh perspective?
  • Show WHY your reader should care about your book. Forge a connection. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your reader. What does that reader need from you?
  • Distill HOW your book will change your reader’s life. Be concrete about benefits rather than features.
  • Speak directly and authentically to one single reader and connect empathetically. 
  • Discover WHEN it’s appropriate to use a conversational tone and open a dialog with your reader.
  • Deliver your message credibly, truthfully, powerfully, and passionately. WHEN you make assertions and take sides, back up your reasoning. Present a balance so the reader can choose.
  • Assure that your one reader feels heard and satisfied that you delivered on your promise.

You’ve lived with your book’s topic for some time, and it’s a passion for you. But will it play in Peoria? Have you researched the competition for the same or overlapping target audience? I’ll do that, too. Knowing which other authors have been there and done that and how they’ve handled your topic gives you the edge to set your work apart. We can brainstorm spinoffs to turn a familiar approach into a fresh one.

What is this “author platform” thing I hear about? Do I need a platform?

In our first session, an author will hear me say, “Tell me about your platform.” That is, what makes you uniquely qualified to write this book? How have you branded and positioned yourself to earn credibility with your future readers?

Publisher Jane Friedman tells us why author platform is important:

Author platform is…an ability to sell books because of who you are, or whom you can reach. Platform is a concept that first arose in connection with nonfiction authors. Sometime during the 1990s, agents and publishers began rejecting nonfiction book proposals and nonfiction manuscripts when the author lacked a “platform.” Before the advent of the Internet or social media—publishers wanted the author to be in the public eye in some way…with the ability to spread the word easily to sell books. Publishers and agents seek writers [authors] with credentials and authority, [authors] who are visible to their target audience as an expert, thought leader, or professional.

In addition to learning about your platform, I’ll need to understand your thought processes and working style. Are you a driver and a micro-manager? Or are you laid back and Zen about whatever comes your way? Will you fidget and be physically or emotionally uncomfortable with interview sessions lasting longer than an hour? Or will you happily lose track of time when you’re in your zone? Can you comfortably talk a blue streak over three cups of java? Or do you get restless? 

Is a memoir the same thing as an autobiography? And how are they different than a biography?


We call all three of these categories creative nonfiction. A memoir and autobiography will cover some of the same ground, but from different perspectives. While they’re definitely different animals, they’re each living, breathing testimonies to the art of telling a true story with enough panache to keep the reader turning pages.

Ah! The enigma of the memorable, marketable, authentic memoir. That brings to mind James Frey’s 2003 best seller, A Million Little Pieces, that ripped the literary world’s page on memoir ethics into a million little pieces. Between the covers of Pieces, published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Doubleday, Frey penned more than a few events that he confessed “were embellished . . . for obvious dramatic reasons.” Oops!

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and memoirs and autobiographies are fiction if they aren’t truthful.

A memoir is a collection of memories viewed through the lens of time and a mature perspective. What makes a good memoir? A theme runs through it. Feeling swirls around not only in the narrative shallows but also in its depths. And that starts with an emotionally dramatic hook. The cohesive story is told from a first-person point of view. The reconstructions of life-altering experiences or experiments, personal or professional breakthroughs interpose themselves unforgettably somewhere between ordinariness and extraordinariness.

There is more at stake in writing memoirs than authors' willingness to expose their vulnerabilities and beating hearts. Authors open to readers their relationship between their real and imagined selves and their real and imagined places in the world. Reading like a novel, a memoir gets its juiciness from conflict. It’s crafted to show character development (often by masterfully re-creating dialogue) alongside constructing character and story arcs. 

More formal than a memoir, an autobiography encompasses the whole enchilada of an author’s life. It’s a first-person tale that doesn’t need to be chronological—starting with that first cry. Like a memoir, its main character is the author. But its emphasis is less on the multi-faceted emotional responses to tipping-points in the author's life than on the events themselves and, perhaps, their consequences.

Biographies go where autobiographies go, but they’re written by someone other than the subject. They require copious research and no small amount of risk in getting the story right.

Why are memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies so popular? Because there's a little voyeur in all of us. Many of us can't resist a bit of scintillating, behind-the-scenes drama. Humans are fascinating mammals. Our DNA is up to 99 percent identical. Yet, it's that 1 percent that makes life interesting. We don’t all laugh at the same jokes or cry during the same sad/happy scenes or grieve over the same stings and sorrows.

It's your turn to tell your story. Keep in mind that there are no guarantees that the anecdotes recounting your life’s ups and downs will be as riveting to readers as they were life-changing to you. If you aspire to be more than a raconteur, you need to construct a real story with an edge that rings true. Never risk the loss of reputation with fabrications as did Frey.

Your sinking-in-quicksand story has likely been told in various iterations by authors since ancient history. The tale of parachuting into the Pacific as your fighter plane spiraled out of control, flames engulfing its fuselage, has been told, too.

If it’s true that there is nothing new under the sun, then the thrill of the tale must be in its telling. So tell your tale well. I'm here to help.

In today’s competitive marketplace, you want to do all you can to help your memoir go viral faster than Instagram messages dish about celebrity infidelities. You have sharable secrets behind once-locked doors, nuances behind less-than-colorful facts, effects that creep from the woodwork of suspicious causes. There were catalysts for your awakening and foundations erected from rubble and ruin. What were they?

What pearls will you offer the reader of your professional death-defying tale? Is there something redemptive in your suffering that led you to a new beginning? Is there an epiphany in the inelegant failure that shredded your personal or professional ego? What higher voice urged your last-ditch attempt to climb out of the abyss? What battle did you win through courage or cunning? What lessons did you learn while training your dragon? Where does the sphere that is your authentic, wounded, and bleeding self intersect with your readers’ spheres?

Mourning the deaths of her husband and daughter in her autobiographical play, The Year of Magical Thinking, celebrated writer Joan Didion stood astride her suffering in search of her authentic voice and insights about loss that could resonate with her audience.

“The idea that whoever appeared onstage [or in a book or screenplay] would play not me but a character was central to imagining how to make the narrative,” Didion wrote. Didion’s connection with her own vulnerability deepened her connection with her reader. “I would need to see myself from outside. I would need to locate the dissonance between the person I thought I was and the person other people saw.”

In that act of self-surgery, Didion opened herself so that others could see inside themselves. How will you open yourself to your readers?

What is a developmental edit?

For both nonfiction and fiction, a developmental edit is an important first step in your book’s journey to publication, particularly if you’re a new author. Like a high-altitude drone, a developmental edit surveys the sweeping landscape of your manuscript, revealing roads that go nowhere and canyons and the rivers that need bridging.

The developmental edit then zooms closer on critical features: extractive industries despoiling the wild spaces, invasive species harming the ecosystem, and architectural structures that weren’t conceived to naturally integrate with their environment.

For nonfiction, these metaphors suggest assessment at the chapter level of the strength and integrity of your book’s main theme or thesis and how you develop it from the beginning of your manuscript to its satisfying conclusion. The search is also on to discover lost or dropped storylines, holes in the fabric of your logic or information, shifted emphasis in an argument, scope overwhelm, or insufficient information to fulfill your promise to your reader.

For fiction, the overview takes in plot, character development, dialogue, continuity, consistency, and more.
The developmental edit pulls you out of the black hole of manuscript fatigue and lost perspective and brings you back into awareness of your reader’s need to be rescued from dangling over a cliff on a frayed rope. It recalibrates flawed assumptions and builds bridges of relevance and meaning where they had collapsed or were nonexistent. The developmental edit survey has one objective: to help you craft content that your reader can connect with, benefit from, enjoy, and recommend.

More than any other type of edit, a developmental edit challenges you to be open-minded, flexible, and thick-skinned. Because a developmental edit can trigger major manuscript changes, the author-editor relationship must be sown in the fertile ground of mutual trust and respect (and cultivated with humor).

Your developmental edit will include a detailed editorial letter evaluating your manuscript’s strengths and vulnerabilities and recommendations for approaches to take your idea and shape it to meet your one reader’s needs. You’re always the final arbiter of these recommendations.

Late-stage developmental editing can be as arduous, time-consuming, and expensive as writing a book from scratch—often, more so. In fact, late-term work sometimes shifts to collaborative rewriting. So it’s good to start working together early.

What is a line edit?


A line editor is a word whisperer. You do want your manuscript to be pitch perfect, right? But that doesn’t mean I’m coming in like a language broncobuster breaking the wildness out of your mustang manuscript. I’m not interested in reining in your voice or technique, or waving a quirt over your imaginative expressions and vibrant phrases.

For both creative nonfiction and fiction, style and consistency tether your story to your reader. I’ll help you finesse your pace so that it’s rhythmic, fluid, and smooth. Unless, of course, you have a reason to occasionally and intentionally jar your reader out of their saddle. Even then, you’ll need to do so artfully and make your sentences sing.

For your nonfiction, I’ll

  • bridle runaway sentences
  • vary the gait
  • lasso dangling participles
  • wrangle maverick subject-verb disagreements
  • whittle sentences with six prepositions down to one or two
  • shovel the jargon with the rest of the manure
  • polish hooves

For your novel, I’ll

  • uncover that enigmatic moment that your villain pulls the same gun on your protagonist that you had him toss in a dumpster fifty pages earlier
  • locate that spot when your heroine went from brunette to blond without the bleach
  • harness that florid string of adjectives
  • breathe life into that nearly departed passive voice passage
  • help you hear the sounds of your own words and choose empowering alternatives
  • shave the purple prose—without losing your voice

OK. I said above that “more than any other type of edit, a developmental edit challenges you to be open-minded, flexible, and thick-skinned.” I already amend that. I should add that caveat to a line edit.

It’s impossible to see much less admit that your precious baby has warts and six toes on each foot. If you can bear up and be patient while the cosmetic surgery sculpts your baby into a beauty, you’ll be richly rewarded with oohs and aahs from your book's readers.

Seriously, a line edit is a creative act. It focuses on language and style at the word, sentence, and paragraph level. In addition to the short list above, a line edit also looks for redundancies, dialogue issues, confusing passages, tonal shifts, and more. The goal is to improve readability rather than comb for errors.

That’s the job of a copy editor.

What is a copy edit?

Copy editing is the last, highly detail-oriented, rules-based task in your book’s process after line-editing and before your book goes to the designer for interior layout. That means the manuscript has gone through its last revision and the author has signed off up to this point.

The copy edit corrects spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation. It catches name, number, capitalization, hyphenation, and italicization inconsistencies. It removes unintentional repetition, fact checks, and flags language that’s not inclusive.

Sometimes, it seems that line editors and copy editors navigate a manuscript with a Merriam Webster Dictionary under one arm and a Chicago Manual of Style under the other. Thankfully, they're also at our fingertips in digital versions.

The copy edit includes development of a style sheet—a mini style guide, or rule book, that documents the choices made specifically within your manuscript. The style sheet assures that everyone who works on your manuscript knows which choices were made (and, sometimes, why). It’s helpful to the author and saves time for the proofreader.

If you wish, I’ll provide the why and how of my recommendations and corrections rather than just make changes so that you’re aware of them for your future writing. If the why doesn’t matter to you, just tell me, and I’ll save my breath.


Copyright © 2022 Charlotte Meares

art of discovery

Portfolio