Everyone has a ‘little book’ full of story ideas – is it time to do something with yours?

It’s as if someone has pressed the fast-forward button on the first third of the year – Christmas does not seem like four months ago… May has arrived and with it the promise of warmer weather.

I may have mentioned that I work from home so this newfound idea that people can and will work from home is non-news to me.

I love it.

I do agree that the downside is getting distracted from time to time and the location of my kitchen could be further away – i.e. in another house, but overall it works for me. My coffee breaks involve popping the washing out, tidying the kitchen after the mob have left and playing with Harry.

I am not one for dark mornings and drab weather and really savour the brighter mornings and lighter nights. I have a sheltered spot just outside my patio doors that catch the morning sun beautifully and Harry can often be found lying flat out – as if dropped from the floor above.

This month I have been busy with copywriting for clients, involving the wonderfully tasty world of cakes, brownies, modelling, life insurance, estate planning, weddings and my newest additions – promoting ground Ugandan coffee with a purpose and smart lighting.

Writing content takes up space in my brain for far longer than the time it takes me to write it. It all starts from the initial chat with the clients. I mull over the subject, do my research and then start jotting down ideas for how to get the best possible content out there to connect with the intended audience.

As well as copywriting I also offer my services as the Development Editor for authors looking to progress their manuscripts. This involves reading – so always a winner for me and I get to dive deeply into a story – looking at the characters, their lives and how the story unfolds.

The road to publications starts with the ‘Development Editor’ – that’s me!

My job as the development editor is to help the author identify the big-picture issues within their storytelling and then find ways to address any potential problems. I don’t have to address grammar or punctuation – not even sentence structure, but if it is something I can help with then I will. Sometimes, these things can be minor and a correction in the notes make all the difference to a sentence or a paragraph.

I get the manuscript straight from the author and am often the first person to read it in its entirety. This is a huge honour as the author has to part with their work – letting go of what has, most likely, been months of time-consuming effort. Closing the door on family members, shushing the dog, deleting the Ring doorbell app and hiding from friends while their imagination, plans and plots run riot in their heads.

Development Editing is the first stage on the path to publication and I get to write a report with notes and edits for the author to either accept or ignore – it is, after all, their manuscript. The report assesses how the different layers of the story work together, how the author has handled the plot and I will make suggestions regarding any improvements I feel could be made.

The elements of the story that I will comment on are plot, structure, theme, the characters, point of view, dialogue (important one for me as I love talking), the narrative style and the genre it’s aimed at.

I’m a lover of pens and paper – there I’ve said it – and I won’t apologise. Track changes are great but sitting with my laptop is not ideal for hours at a time. Sitting with a manuscript in hard copy, actually holding the typed out (printed form usually) in my hand and editing with a pencil is wonderfully cathartic.

A word of warning though – I do look at any problems within the story but then, that is what I have been paid to do.

Taking my advice is completely up to the author (thankfully, all have done so far) but sometimes this can push the story slightly out of the author’s intention. Often, a little bit of focused and in-depth chat realigns any tricky points and looking at the content and structure aids the manuscript moving forward.

I certainly would never dictate because ultimately the manuscript is not mine – however, my goal is exactly the same as the author – to make their book the absolute best it can be.

Depending on the size of the novel, I would expect to have it with me for a maximum of four weeks. I plan my diary out and factor in content writing along with the editing work that I have. That way I get to have the best of both worlds.

Hopefully, this has been useful if you have started or been working on your own manuscript. Maybe you know someone who is a keen writer but simply does not know where to turn after they’ve written the last chapter. I am always happy to chat and if I can’t help then I normally know someone who can – nothing medical though, please.

That said, I have a pile of planning and research to start for the rest of the month so I had better bid you all farewell until next time. Keep safe and enjoy our gentle release back into the wild.

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