Editing for Writers

If you're an individual writer looking for editorial support, do get in touch to see how I can help you. Whether your project is fiction or non-fiction, academic, educational or reference, long, short or somewhere in between, I’d love to hear about it.

Below are some examples of where you might be right now. Every writing project is different, so don’t worry if you don’t see something here that fits with where you are – get in touch anyway!

Early stages

This is an exciting time, but sometimes confusing too, whether you’re working on fiction or non-fiction. How to put your ideas together, organise what you want to say, build your characters (if your work has any); what point of view and tone of voice might work best … and so on. This kind of creative groundwork is at least half the fun of writing, and is often revisited throughout the writing and even the editorial process. Often these things become clearer as you write, or after you’ve finished a first draft. I’m very happy to talk them over with you if you find it would be helpful to discuss your ideas – frequently this can help clarify what you want to do, and how you can achieve it. You may well be further along than this, but have reached a point where you’re not sure about where to go or what to do next, or how to approach a new element of the work. Equally, everything might be flowing wonderfully – but you’d like someone else to read it and give you some feedback. Mentoring might be suitable for you here, or an initial assessment and feedback. Whatever the situation, drop me an email and we can discuss what you need.

‘Working with Helen, literally and literarily, gave me the confidence to complete a work that I would surely have abandoned prematurely, without her help, encouragement and also her patience.’ Jean Proctor, memoirist

First draft(s) written

Well done getting to this stage! It can be hard to get here – and often by this point, writers can feel as if they’re so close to their work they’re not sure how well it really achieves what they hope and want it to do. Another opinion can be very helpful here, especially one that comes from an editorial perspective. I aim to be constructive and encouraging, but not to give a false impression of your work – so if there is an area that needs more attention, I will discuss it with you. This might be an aspect of the structure, voice or style, or address pace or details relating to characterisation and dialogue – or a variety of points. Or I might focus more on presentational matters such as grammar and punctuation (although usually this is only something that needs attention at later stages). My experience working as an in-house editor for a trade publisher has helped to inform my feedback here – I’ll look at your work from a reader’s and editor’s point of view, but also with the publishing angle in mind, whether you’re planning to self-publish or approach agents and publishers to go down the more traditional route.

‘Helen read the synopsis and some early chapters of my debut novel, Sea of Gold, and gave me a detailed report that helped me see what was working well and what needed more attention. I was looking for a professional editor, and Helen is that – a highly skilled expert. Over a period of fifteen months she carried out a full structural edit with detailed feedback throughout. Helen challenged, encouraged and complimented; compelling me to review and often re-write passages until I was happy with the result. In practice she acted as my mentor. Helen is always quick to respond, not afraid to express her opinions in a cheerful and friendly way. I very much hope to work with her again.’ Nick Elliott (self-published author of the thriller trilogy Sea of GoldDark Ocean and Black Reef)

Preparing to submit your work to agents/publishers

This can be quite a nerve-racking time – and it is reassuring to make sure that the work is as polished as possible when you send it out to agents and publishers, to give it the best chance of being taken seriously. Agents and editors are notoriously busy, and on top of their day-to-day work have a great deal to read: they rarely appreciate something that is poorly presented (with dodgy grammar, punctuation, spelling – and missing page numbers) or introduced with a muddled letter or synopsis. If your work is taken on, it will usually receive a full editorial process (with agent feedback first, if you get an agent), so at this stage my input can be quite light-touch. However, I will make sure that there are no unexplained holes in your work, that it flows well and give it a brush-up copyedit to make sure it is tidy and makes sense. I’ll also tell you if I think it’s not quite ready to be sent out yet – it can be hard to re-approach people with a much-improved work if they’ve already said ‘no’ to it once.
If you are within easy access of Edinburgh and are part of a group, or know others who are also writing, I also offer workshops and talks about preparing your work for submission. This can be a good way to get a sense of what to do yourself, and helps spread the cost. I’d be happy to read short samples in advance, and give one-to-one feedback, if wanted.

‘Helen took my stories apart and helped me fit them back together, only much tighter and more cohesive than before her professional analysis. She noticed plot bunnies and gaps in characterisation which helped me make my submissions to publishers much stronger than they would have been otherwise. I absolutely recommend her for any project, large or small, and I’ll be banging on her virtual door when my next manuscript needs help to shine.’ Elise Alden (author of Hate to Love You, and others!)

Preparing to self-publish your work

It is getting easier every day to get your work ‘out there’ for others to read and buy. There are so many different formats and platforms available that if you want to publish something yourself, it’s relatively straightforward to do it, whether it’s digitally or in print. But it’s hard to self-edit and to proofread your own work – often you’ve gone over it so many times, and maybe tweaked little bits here or there – that you can’t really ‘see’ it anymore, or miss unintended knock-on effects from minor changes. If you want someone to check and polish your work before you make it public, I’m the person for you! I also work with typesetters and designers who may be able to help you produce your work ready for your chosen platform, if you are looking beyond the editorial stage.

‘It was a good day that my first work was sent to Helen for copyediting. Her suggestions taught me much and I've always been happy to send subsequent projects to her. Helen has a keen eye for detail, she checks sources and irons out any sloppiness in the most tactful way. Her comments are firm but supportive and easy to follow. She is patient and helpful with my queries. Her approach is friendly and kind with a practical way of dealing with instructions and limits. I feel she is on my side. Above all, Helen shows great respect for the original work she undertakes. I am grateful for her clear guidance and would highly recommend her work.’ J. L. K. Cross, author of privately distributed Dear Lives and Early Graves and the forthcoming self-published Artwork and Odd Stories and Mudge in the Mist

‘Thanks for all you have done – hugely appreciated. You were brilliant, very patient, kind and understanding.’ Alastair Loudon (self-published author of Gentry Links). Alastair has also contributed a blog – have a look to find out more about his book!

In a writing group

If you and your fellow writers would like me to visit to talk about editing and publishing, do get in touch! I offer workshops or talks, and/or a series of one-to-ones to discuss your work. It can be a fun way to get an insight into the editorial process, and also helps spread the cost. I am more than happy to travel to most places within reasonable reach of Edinburgh. Get in touch to discuss a visit!

My Services and What is ...? pages give some specific information on different elements of editorial work. If you'd like to learn more about the editorial and publishing process, keep an eye on my blog and check out the Tips & Tools page – I have an ever-growing list of things to add. If you have a question or a suggestion for something to add to Tips & Tools, or the blog, get in touch and I’ll do my best to write a short piece about it – or if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does!

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