Editing & Coaching 
"I say what you mean" 
The Math of Editing


     I've developed--and teach--a highly effective editing 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, and story elements. Believe it or not, I use this same technique on fiction and nonfiction--on novels and short stories, and also on corporate reports, scientific papers, magazine articles, and personal essays. 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 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.


I edit on hard copy with my trusty blue (not red!) pen and send through the mail; or on digital copy, using the track changes and comments features: you choose. For developmental edits, I also include a one- to two-page critique, outlining strengths, weaknesses, and a strategy for improvement.


Developmental / Substantive / Structural editing

     This is "big-picture" editing, focusing on content and organization. In other words: 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 target points and take-aways, thesis statements, 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


Line editing

     This is 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 unneccessary filler

  • Improving transitions and flow

  • Creating compelling first and last lines


Copy editing

     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. Also, in some cases, the copyedit can be combined with the line edit.


Manuscript critique

     A manuscript critique letter is a detailed analysis of a book manuscript, examining the work as a whole, offering comments on its strengths and weaknesses, and outlining specific suggestions for improving it. It is similar to the letters I write for literary agents who ask me to read proposals and explain why I do or no not recommend them, but the manuscript critique is much longer and more detailed. These reports are generally five to ten pages, depending on the length of the book. Little or no comments or edits are written on the manuscript.



     For writers who want to improve their skills as well as their manuscripts --their process as well as their product--coaching combines editing, teaching, and consulting. We can meet in person, on site at corporate offices, or over skype.

  • At the early stage of a project, I can work with writers before they've written a word, to help them find and outine their ideas, develop an approach, and plan a schedule--with deadlines.

  • If writers have completed a draft, they email it to me ahead of time, along with any specific concerns or goals. I read and prepare the draft with comments, and then we meet to discuss what it needs and how to accomplish it. Often we do some re-writing together, and create a list of to-dos for the writer to address after the meeting. We can then repeat the process on the rewrite.

  • Throughout the process, I am available to answer questions and offer advice on publishing, including outlets to approach and how to approach them.

Andrew Hathaway

Frances wrestling with an almost-impenetrable tangle of seaweed, which also describes what she does as an editor.

  • Novels & short stories

  • Memoir

  • Essays

  • Nonfiction articles

  • Essays & articles for women's magazines

  • Books on computer programming & admin

  • Articles for scientific journals

  • Books, book proposals & ebooks

  • Corporate reports & white papers

  • Impact reports

  • Company & organization biographies

  • Newsletters

  • Press Releases

  • Blogs & web sites

Recent Clients & Projects
  • Coaching a writer who placed her essay in a national women's magazine with 26 million readers, and another who published his first story, in a venerable literary journal

  • Coaching scientists at an environmental engineering firm to improve their impact reports and articles for professional journals

  • Editing four memoirs published by an ebook publisher

  • Editing, designing & producing four books in print and digital formats.

  • Editing and coaching subject-matter experts for a tech publisher producing books on computer technologies

  • Editing a memoir-in-stories by a first-time author

  • Coaching & editing a psychotherapist publishing a book on eating disorders

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."

Editing rates are based on an hourly rate, which in turn is based on the size and shape of the 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. 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 great way to begin.


For details, estimates & scheduling,

please contact




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