You’re sitting at your computer, hands poised on the keyboard. You’ve planned your story, done your character sketches and outline, and know exactly what will happen and how it will end. But where does it start? You look at the row of question marks on the first line of your outline. You didn’t know where to begin when you created it, and you don’t know now.
Or, for the fifth time, you’ve rewritten a tense scene that’s pivotal to the story, but it still lies flat on the page. All the elements are there, but it doesn’t sing. And it won’t hook a reader. Now what?
The ability to write is a talent. The ability to write well is an acquired skill. How do you move from one to the other?
Taking a writing class offers possibilities, particularly when it comes to grammar skills. The downside, however, might be a one-size-fits-all approach that can inhibit rather than foster creativity.
A writing group offers a forum for brainstorming and inspiration. The critiquing process, if handled with objectivity and diplomacy, can define areas that need development or other intervention. The efficacy of any group, however, depends on the ability/experience/expertise of its members, the manner in which the critique is delivered, and the validity and thoroughness of the suggestions.
Family and friends can be enthusiastic and encouraging—or the opposite. What they won’t be is objective. Those who know us and love us are not the best stepping stones on the path from writing talent to writing well. (Yes, exceptions exist, but emotional ties often taint “constructive criticism.”)
A competent editor should always be part of the team that takes a book from concept to completion. Editors, however, can be expensive, and they generally come into the picture after a book is written unless their specialty is developmental editing. Taking another step prior to the editing process will help assure that your manuscript is well written, grammatically correct, and ready to grip your audience—and it will likely save you big bucks over the course of your writing career.
Working one-on-one with a writing coach, book shepherd, or mentor can make the difference between an expensive content edit and a quick copy edit/proofread. The tricks of the trade and lessons learned will apply to future works, hence the money-saving factor. Remember, though, that a writing coach does not replace an editor. Here’s what she/he does do:
• Teaches you to use words more effectively
• Shows you how to develop characters
• Helps you to grab and hold your audience
• Teaches you the effectiveness of show vs. tell
• Helps you to avoid writer intrusion
• Highlights the value of active verbs
• Makes your work memorable
• Makes your readers eager for your next book
• Shows you where to begin and end
• Teaches you to maintain rhythm and flow
• Helps you eliminate unnecessary material
Have you ever worked with a writing coach? What qualities in a coach are most important to you? Do you believe a coach could improve your work?
After working as an editor for more than two decades, Linda Lane now mentors writers who want to take their work to the next level. To learn more about her mentoring, visit her at http://www.denvereditor.com/