Editing, Advice and Mentoring

As I mentioned in my last post, today’s the day when I launch my new advice, editing and mentoring service for authors which I’ll be running alongside my own writing.

So, what am I offering?

Firstly, like all freelance editors, I’m offering a whole book appraisal. I’ll read your book with an editor’s eye and write you a detailed report on all the necessary aspects of writing a successful novel: plot, pace, characterisation, dialogue, themes, point of view, and readability. Included in this will be a sample page/section of line editing (see below) if I feel that your writing needs detailed work on grammar and syntax. And, as part of the package, I’ll follow that up with a one-off Zoom or phone consultation to discuss the report.

For those wishing to self-publish or submit a polished novel to an agent, I’m offering a line-editing service which will pick up any anomalies in the story or your grammar, suggest changes where sentences or paragraphs aren’t clear or where you might have over-written or under-written something, and pick up typos, leaving you with as ‘clean’ a copy to submit as possible. Agents tend to reject books that need a lot of this kind of work, so despite the fact that it’s more expensive than the initial whole book appraisal above, it’s a good investment.

So far so conventional. But I’d also like to offer some more bespoke services.

If you don’t yet have a completed typescript, or if you haven’t even begun your novel and you’d like help on where to start, I can offer advice on the various aspects of novel-writing that you might want to think about before you begin. If you would find it helpful, we might then agree on a period of mentoring to suit you and the pace you want to work at.

If you need help in the middle of your book when your plot seems to have unravelled or your characters won’t behave, I can take a look at where you’ve got to and work with you on how to move forward. Trying to sort out structural issues when you have no experience to fall back on can be very daunting and a little advice can make all the difference.

If you feel that your characters are failing to ‘come alive’ I can look at where you’ve got with them and discuss how you might make them spring off the page more convincingly. Readers may come to a book because they’ve been intrigued by the plot in the blurb, but books are made memorable by characters so it’s vital that yours are as vibrant as you can make them.

If you are writing a historical novel and you need advice on research or how to integrate what you’ve learned into your book, I can advise you on what I’ve learned over six successful historical novels, two of which have been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s historical dagger. One of the biggest mistakes new writers of historical fiction make is to include too much of the fascinating research they’ve done, and I know that the opportunity to discuss what is and isn’t relevant or interesting would have been invaluable to me when I was starting out.

If you’ve got half a novel on your hard drive which you started during lockdown and you want to know whether it’s worth carving out the time to bash on with it, I can assess what you’ve achieved so far and advise on whether it’s got potential, or you’d be better off learning Spanish.

But that’s not al. I’d also like to offer a different kind of whole book appraisal.

Having already done some work with new writers on finished novels (which is why I’m launching this service) I know that if a report is going to be any use, it will take as long to write as the novel does to read, if not longer. And that can make the whole process very expensive for you, the writer. Depending on the length of your novel and the particular editorial service you’re working with, you can spend anything from £400 to more than £2000. And, with the bigger services, there will also be VAT on top of that.

For many writers, having a written report is worth the investment; if your novel has potential and your writing is something you want to progress to the next level, you’ll need to refer back to it constantly, and you might also want to use it for reference as you write your next book. But what if you’re unsure about your ability as a writer and all you want is somebody’s advice on whether this book is worth spending more time on, or whether you need to do more work on certain aspects of your writing before you start your next book?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that because their friends and family have enjoyed their book that they can immediately send it off to an agent and wait for the email offering representation. Reality is very different.

At the beginning of my writing career, when I had persistently failed to sell any work, I packaged up a selection of short stories I’d written for the women’s magazine market (because that’s what you did in those days) and sent them to a critical service with a simple question: Am I wasting my time? As well as commenting on voice, pacing, characterisation etc, as above, they very helpfully told me that I wasn’t wasting my time but that I should think about writing a novel rather than persisting with short stories. They were absolutely right, and that was all the advice I needed.

So, if you’ve written a book and you’d simply like an objective opinion as to whether to move forward with it, I’ll read your typescript and arrange a Zoom meeting with you where I can feed back my impressions and advice. Then you’ll only be paying for my reading time.

If, following that, you decide that you’d like me to put it all down in writing, then that’s also something I can do. However, if the verbal feedback has been sufficient, then you will have saved yourself a tidy sum – enough, if you’d like, to book some mentoring sessions while you get your next book underway!

So, how do you know whether I’m the right person to help you?

Speaking from my own experience, the relationship a writer has with an editor or mentor is very personal. The more both parties feel on the same wavelength, the more productive the working relationship will be. For that reason, when you get in touch with me, I’ll offer you a free twenty-minute phone or Zoom consultation, so that we can get to know each other, and you can decide whether I might be the person you’re looking for to help you with your writing.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, do get in touch via the contacts tab.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on this blog. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be talking about various aspects of editing and mentoring and the whole business of writing novels.

I’m looking forward to working with some of you!

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