Of Mentoring, Editing, and Coaching, or
Directing the wayward author
My life has always been about writing. My favorite quote by Edward Morgan Forster is, “How do I know what I think until I see what I write?”
I had my first story printed in 1965. I was teaching school by day and pumping gas at a truck stop by night in Pocatello Idaho. During slow nights I scribbled parts of an inane story and submitted it to a Romance Magazine. They paid me a nickel a word. My first royalty check was around $ 300.00. Not bad for 1965.
After that auspicious beginning I continued to write; freelance articles, grants, newspaper columns… anything that needed to be written, I wrote. My longest, and most boring creation was my Doctoral dissertation. That wore me out for the next 30 years.
In 2013 I decided to crank up the grey matter and write a memoir. Since I had such a vast (or half-vast) and diverse list of writing experiences, I self-edited. Bad mistake. My final manuscript had not been properly edited and it showed. I was introduced to Blue Sun Studio and a published author who helped me through the mechanics of getting my memoir put together. We added a nice cover and a clever title, and voila! I had published a book!
Next try, a novel. The great American story of an immigrant who overcame huge odds and enjoyed success. It was a great story. This time I had the manuscript professionally edited before approaching Deb and Wendi at Blue Sun Studios to help get it published. They were candid with me and told me the story had potential but the book was not ready to publish. Perhaps some coaching and mentoring would help.
Not ready to publish? I already had over two million words in print! Coaching? I imagined Deb with sweats and a whistle saying, “Okay scribbler, drop and give me 50 keystrokes!”
Or maybe it would be Wendi as Dr. Frankenstein’s Igor saying, “Write this way…”
But after reading their own writings and listening to some on-the-spot suggestions, I had faith they could help me improve my manuscript. I put my ego in my hip pocket and gave it a try.
The help I received had little to do with “…i before e except after c,” or keeping in proper tense. Those issues were addressed by the editor. No, the mentoring and coaching was more of the three of us getting into the story, living the lives of the characters, and bringing them to life. The process was not one of telling, but of showing and skillfully asking questions. The sessions were followed by my rewriting scenes and characters, adding and deleting, and becoming aware of appropriate motivations of the characters, adding detail when needed, making characters more believable in their behavior more synch with the story and the time (this is an historical novel).
Mentoring and coaching is not, “This is your problem, here is the solution, fix it.” Rather it is a dialogue, often on a page-by-page basis, that allows the reader to restructure, rewrite, enhance, and generally strengthen what the author has already written. The result is that the story remains true to and reflective of the author, but is a cleaner, smoother, more enjoyable story.
I’m currently working on a sequel to my historical novel. There are times that I wish the coaching and mentoring process was being done as I write the story, but that is not the sequence. In order for the story to maintain ownership by the author, the manuscript must first be drafted, then edited, then the mentoring and coaching should take place. That in my opinion makes for the optimum outcome.
Would you like to know more about how Blue Sun Studio’s Manuscript Mentoring and other publishing services can help you? Click here to learn more.