WRITING TIP: How to Get the Right Kind of Help

You’re ready to spend serious cash to improve your latest writing project. Who can help you more: an editor, coach, or teacher? 

What you need depends on three things:

1. Your level of experience and education about the art and craft of writing

2. Where you are in the writing process (completed manuscript, outline, ideation phase, etc…), and

3. What you hope to gain from working with someone.

If you’re thinking about writing a book, and you don’t know where to start, get some books on craft. [Click here to see my recommendations.] Reading about the process can help you figure out if you really, really want to write a book. As my friend and mentor Mira once told me: “Don’t write it unless you NEED to write it. Otherwise, it’s just too much work.”  I have used this piece of advice to guide my project decisions many times.

If reading about writing has lit a fire beneath you, take what you learned from those books and start writing. This is also the time to find a class. Earning a BA in film studies/screenwriting didn’t stop me from continuing to study and improve my craft of writing. I have also taken group classes from Gotham Writers in NY and Grub Street Writers in Boston. I recommend both. If you prefer individual attention, consider hiring a private teacher. (I teach one-to-one writing courses via zoom or in person in New Haven, CT.)

If you’re trying to write your first book, and it’s not quite coming together, it’s time for a writing class or a writing coach. A writing teacher will review and offer direct critique of your work, and if you’re in a class, you may get to share your writing with other students and get their feedback. A writing coach will not review your work unless asked (and then only during your session.) Your coach will offer tips and suggestions and ask questions to help you figure out why you’re getting stuck and how to get back on track. [See this video for what to expect in a creativity coaching session. Note, all coaches do not follow the same format. Methods vary.]

Once you’ve spent at least a year learning about and practicing the art and craft of writing, it might be time to join a critique group. [Click here to get smart about what to do when submitting to a writing group.]

You’ll get the most from hiring an editor when you have a complete manuscript. Beware, there are different types of editors for different manuscript needs. Your project may benefit from a Developmental Edit, a Line Edit, a Copyedit, or all three. 

Editors are expensive, so it’s prudent to wait until you have a solid first draft (60,000+ words). Also, before you hire an editor, ask yourself how far you’re willing to go to get your book published. How many years are you willing to spend revising it? Editors don’t rewrite the book for you; they offer suggestions to help you fix the problems. 

Check out Reedsy.com or NY Book Editors. I haven’t worked with either, but I know people who have. If you write genre fiction, you can also find editors who specialize in your genre. Personally, I prefer to work with an editor who “speaks the language” of romance novels, since that’s my focus.

Numerous resources exist to help novice and experienced writers bring their stories into the world. I hope this information helps you find the help you need when you need it.

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