Writing a book takes tremendous effort. Ernest Hemingway is often quoted as saying that to write all you need do is sit at a typewriter and bleed. According to Steve Paul, writing at The Hemingway Society website, there is no substantive evidence that Hemingway is the source of that quote. I think most of the authors I’ve worked with would say that writing a book takes time, thought, persistence, effort, and, in the end help.

I’m always a little embarrassed by some of the acknowledgements I have received for my work. I think developmental editing and ghostwriting are the most fun things to do—hardly work, although genuinely difficult. Usually by the end of a project, I feel a deep affection and fellowship with a book’s author. Some authors have become life-long friends. While I was working on the first edition of Kathy Schwalbe’s book, I was pregnant with twins, my second and third children. Kathy made beautiful, quilted pillow covers for each baby, and her mother knitted booties for them. I still treasure the pillows and booties. Don Gosselin has been like a brother to me over the years. And I owe my black belt in Taekwondo, in part, to Robin Wells, who I misheard as studying “force yoga;” Robin and I are about the same age, and I figured that if she could become a “force yoga” instructor, I could earn a black belt in Taekwondo. Of course, Robin was studying to become an instructor of Forrest Yoga, and I was experiencing a hearing issue.

More recently, I have been collaborating with Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, a remarkable and energetic woman who grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and is now CEO of the Internet of Things Talent Consortium. I have also been developing a very special philosophy book, but information about that and its author will have to wait until publication.

I help authors write books by collaboratively editing their manuscripts. Some people call this developmental editing. However, when an author doesn’t have the time or the writing skills, I do more of the heavy lifting.

I bring a variety of techniques to my work, including developmental editing, line editing, rewriting, research, and ghostwriting.

The way I see it, developmental editing begins with understanding an author’s vision for his or her work. What is the author trying to accomplish in the book or with the book, and who is the author writing for in addition to herself? Understanding the vision involves taking the author’s, the target reader’s, and the (prospective) publishing company’s perspectives, and then blending those into a coherent story of the book. It also involves understanding that a book’s vision can change over time. This understanding of vision from multiple points of view informs what happens during hands-on editing.

It is a good idea to know something about what other books exist on the same or similar topics. Is the book at hand unique? If not, does it have unique aspects? What distinguishes this book from others like it? Of the millions of books a person could read, what will drive them to read this one, beyond pure interest in the specific topic?

Developmental editing often involves project management. It’s a good idea to have some ideas about schedule, cost, and what the end product will look like. Will it be a hard copy book? Will it be an ebook, and in what format? Will there be figures in the book? What format does the manuscript need to be in for the production process? Is there a target length in pages or words? Is there any flexibility?

I like to have an idea of the book’s overall structure. How many chapters? Is there a good idea of how long chapters should be?

Most of the time when I do an estimate for a project, I don’t have answers to these questions or much information at all. And that’s OK, because most of the work happens with the paragraphs, sentences, and words.

I can take a variety of approaches to the editing. I like to look at everything I do as a suggestion. I can do all my work through querying, asking open-ended or close-ended questions. In this case, the author does all the implementation. I can do line editing and rewriting as necessary. I can suggest changes either by demonstrating a change or providing a model to follow. How much querying versus how much changing of words, sentences, and paragraphs I do depends on what an author and I agree to at the outset. An author might have the skills, but not the desire to do all the implementation. Or vice versa.

My process is collaborative. So, if we work together, I would hope to get as much information from you as possible before I begin. I would do a 5- to 10-page sample edit, preferably paid, and would send you the edited manuscript with all changes tracked in a Word document. I can edit a PDF, but I prefer to work in Word using track changes; I have not yet found a better tool than Word. I would send a memo along with the edited manuscript. The edit would describe what I found, what I think, why I think it, and what I think next steps should be. Hopefully, I would come up with a list of 3 to 5 key revisions that will improve the material so that it better embodies the author’s vision.

My deliverables always take the form of an edited manuscript plus a memo. If there are figures in the chapters, and you want me to work with those, I can sometimes come up with visualizations of concepts; however, I am no artist. Figures that I create are rough drafts, at best.

From a sample edit and memo, an author and I together decide what I should do. Ideally, we work together as a team, fully collaborating. This collaboration can occur via email, shared documents on Dropbox or Google Drive, phone or Skype calls, or any combination of these.

If this all makes sense to you, let me know. I’d like to hear about your current plans and needs from an editor. Basically, I’d like to hear whatever you’re willing to share with me about your current project. We’ll converse via email, or if you’d like to talk via phone or Skype that would work as well.

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