Editing & Coaching
"I say what you mean"
The Math of Editing
I practice--and teach--a technique I call Organic Editing, which analyzes drafts to find what they are trying to say, then works on structure and organization to best express those stories and ideas. Once these elements are set, we can turn to paragraph-level and sentence-level issues like transitions, phrasing, explanations, and story elements. I use this same technique on fiction and nonfiction, on both creative and technical writing. Creative writers are often surprised to find out how much logical and analytical thinking is necessary in the writing process, especially in the editing stage. Meanwhile, journalists and business and technical writers can be amazed at how much intuitive and creative thinking is required, and how they don't always have to know exactly what they want to say before they start writing. My philosophy, and my approach to writing, editing, teaching, and coaching, is that the writing process contains both art and math, that things need to add up as well as astonish.
Developmental / Substantive / Structural editing
This is big-picture editing, focusing on content and organization, and is the first step in the editing process. What are you saying--or trying to say--and how are you saying it? What is the main point of this essay or report, and what are the sub-points? Where is the story in this story? And have you presented the information or told the story in the best order? At this stage we work on:
Developing and deepening story line and narrative arc
Strengthening characters, settings, running themes, and other story elements
Adding missing information and scenes
Finding, condensing, and deleting redundant sections
Clarifing key points, take-aways, and conclusions
Examining the structure of the work, and moving sections, scenes, and paragraphs to increase clarity and/or heighten drama
Balancing scene and summary, showing and telling, examples and conclusions, evidence and interpretation
Editing line-by-line focusing on sentence-level issues to clarify meaning, polish language and rhythm, and develop tone. At this stage, we focus on:
Bolstering details and descriptions
Increasing precision in word choice and phrasing
Varying sentence structure and length
Developing voice and tone
Tightening prose and eliminating unnecessary filler
Improving transitions and flow
Creating compelling openings and closings
This is nitty-gritty, word-by-word editing for grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and style, using standard style guides (Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook), and in-house corporate or publication guides. We're talking hyphens, capitalization, commas, and italics. This is the last stage in the editing process, and if one editor does the developmental and or line edit, it is sometimes helpful to use a different editor--with fresh eyes--for this step. Sometimes, the copyedit can be combined with the line edit.
For writers who want to improve their skills as well as their manuscripts, coaching combines editing, teaching, and advising. We can meet on site or online. I can work with writers before they've written a word, to help them find and outline their ideas, plan an approach, and create a schedule--with deadlines. Or we can work once a draft is complete, analyzing its needs and what to focus on in the next drafts.
What clients are saying:
"Frances is both creative and clear thinking, and found many ways to make my story sing."
"She was thoughtful and effective with our staff, and showed them how to make their reports more readable and more interesting. We're confident they'll be able to put these skills to use on future reports."
"Exactly what I needed in a writing coach: instruction, advice, support. "
"I left my session with Frances feeling inspired and informed, with notes to enhance my manuscript."
The best way for me to estimate the cost of a project, and for you to see if you like my style of editing, is to begin with sample pages. With books, I like to see a sample chapter and table of contents; with shorter projects, I Iook over the whole draft to produce an estimate. I edit two to three pages at no cost; charges do kick in for a longer sample edit. Editing and coaching rates are based on an hourly rate of $60 to $75, depending on project details, with a 2-hour minimum. A 2-hour coaching or editing session can accomplish quite a bit and is a good way to begin.