In coaching or mentoring a fellow writer:

The approach I will take is to listen, understand, and extend advice. That seems all pretty simple, right? Well, I think it depends on the approach and the problem. If someone comes and asks me to read over their work, I’ll ask them questions first to make sure that I’ll be an okay person to help. Not every writer or editor is correct for every kind of editing. Then, the next step is to listen to their concerns. Last, I’ll read the work myself and note any large, upfront concerns that I find. In writing, there can be any number of huge systematic reasons why a tale just isn’t working. Having a deeper understanding of the elements that go into crafting a great story helps, which is part of why I started attending the MFA program. The writer and I can sit down and look at their work. I might be able to identify an under lying problem that they have been unable to notice, something structurally, that needs a few tweaks to help the story come together better. The writer might only need a springboard, someone to bounce ideas off of in order to align their thinking; someone willing to listen, think, and question.

What Will You Do?

I will be using industry-specific techniques such as multiple read-throughs looking at specific elements of the story, checking formatting, consistency issues, imagery, and small things, like typos and grammar. I’ve recently also discovered the beauty of the commenting tool on Word, which allows for editing suggestions without altering the text. It should come in handy since some authors may be uncomfortable allowing for undocumented changes. Besides, it allows freedom for the editor or coach to make recommendations without implying that they are mandatory. Sometimes a sentence doesn’t work not because it’s trying to explain a weak idea, but because it’s done so in a confusing way. Consider an author has a gorgeous image but it’s losing some of it’s flare because they’ve written it in a passive voice. I’d leave them a note explaining what I believe the imagery is depicting and asking if there is a stronger, more active way to show it to the reader. Are there any more vivid comparisons they could make? Something along those lines. I don’t think I would be a super proofreader. Half the time I can’t see my own typos, but I can help with issues like this one. That just means that I should market myself to potential clients as a more “big picture” or content editor with some line-editing services. All the better if everyone is crystal clear in their expectations.

How Will You Approach Revision?

For revision I would use a system like the one I take with my own work which involves reading out loud both to myself and to a small audience. I read out loud because “…prose can be as beautiful as a butterfly made of unicorn wishes, but if nobody knows what … you’re talking about, no one will care” (Wendig) and then the great story is lost. Saying the words helps to look for issues in flow and strange snags, places where the brain sticks or skips. Awkward words happen. Sometimes the fingers get behind our thoughts, move a little too slow, and what makes it down is mixed-up. It can be extremely hard to see these spots because our brain is filling in the correct word while reading silently. An author might miss them in their own work more easily because they know what the sentence is supposed to say as oppose to what it actually says. It’s a matter of being too close to see the whole p. That’s where I step in, with my big-picture-marketed self, and help them see their story become the best it can be.

~Sarah

Wendig, Chuck. “Edit Your Shit, Part One: The Copy-Edit.” 8 Dec 2010. Terrible Minds. Web. 2019. <http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2010/12/08/edit-your-shit-part-one-the-copy-edit/&gt;.

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