I’ve coached dozens of writers and edited dozens of novels in 2023. And while the stories are all different, there’s something they all have in common.
Here’s my biggest takeaway from coaching writers in 2023.
This weekend, I celebrated the one year anniversary of launching my editing business. I’ve been editing novels and studying story for over six years, but it’s just this year that I’ve gotten to turn this into my full-time work. It’s been an absolute joy, and I’m so, so excited to reach this milestone.
And lately, since it’s not only the first anniversary of my business, but also we’re nearing the end of the calendar year, I’ve been feeling pretty reflective.
I’ve been looking back on the work I’ve done in 2023, the books I’ve edited, the writers I’ve coached, the stories I’ve gotten to dig into and study and refine. And I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned this year, both as an editor and book coach and as an entrepreneur and business owner.
This month on the podcast, I’ve got a few episodes for you that will take a look back on the year: the biggest lessons and best takeaways from 2023. There’s so much good stuff from this year, and I’m really excited to share these episodes with you.
And I’m kicking off this series of reflections here. For this episode, I thought back over all the work I’ve done with writers this year, what it’s looked like to collaborate with and coach so many writers through their editing processes. I thought about the patterns I saw, the themes that came up, and the things I’ve learned as an editor and book coach.
And in this episode, I’m going to share my biggest takeaway from coaching writers this year—the truth that’s stuck out to me the most, that I’ve seen come up again and again across the work I do with so many different writers.
What I’ve Learned From Coaching Writers in 2023
Editing your own writing is really hard.
Let me explain what I mean.
On this podcast, I share all the tips and strategies I’m using to edit novels so you can use them in your own stories. If you take everything you learn here and self-edit your novel into a brilliant next draft, that’s fantastic. I’m so excited to celebrate that.
And I know you love learning to edit, learning to write better stories. I know because you tell me: I often get emails or hear comments from writers who listen to the podcast and let me know that they’re downloading my worksheets and putting the tips they learn to use in their stories, and that their stories are stronger and they feel more confident for it all.
And I see this when I work with writers one-on-one, too.
Writers come to me from a wide range of experience levels.
Some writers come to me brand new, working on their first draft of their first ever novel, and they’re right at the beginning of learning to tell stories, and so they don’t know any of this stuff and I get to share these concepts with them for the first time.
And many writers come to me with a lot of experience and skill. They know how to tell stories. They’ve listened to my podcast, yes, and they’ve also read the craft books out there and taken the courses and joined the critique groups and workshopped their writing.
They’ve studied and practiced and learned how to tell great stories. They love to learn more on the podcast, because there’s always more for all of us to learn. And they’re putting it all to use to edit their fifth drafts of their fifth novels or more.
Editors Help at Every Stage
I’m mentioning this so you know: writers who are just getting started and at the beginning of their storytelling and learning find it helpful to work with editors.
And writers who are published authors, who’ve studied and practiced and honed their skills, who have written and published multiple excellent books that readers love—they also find it helpful to work with editors.
They know how stories work. They know how to edit their own writing. They know the story concepts I talk about—when I mention the six elements of story or value shifts, they know exactly what I’m talking about, and in fact, they’ve already used those tools to help them write and self-edit their stories.
And yet they STILL come to me for feedback. They still bring me stories that have gaps we can shore up. They still hire an editor, even when they have years of expertise of their own that they’re already applying to their writing.
Writers in this camp are awesome. They send me excellent material. And yet they still hit a point where they can’t see their own writing clearly, they don’t know what changes to make, and they need a fresh perspective to spot exactly what needs shoring up.
The More I Teach on the Podcast, the Better
This is one of the reasons I love creating this podcast, and why it doesn’t feel like a threat in any way to show you exactly what I do as an editor.
I want to teach you all the things I’m doing. It is only an advantage to me if you come to work with me having already listened to my episodes, already familiar with my tools, already using my worksheets and strategies to edit your own writing.
Because here’s the thing: when you come to work with me one-on-one, yes, I bring a body of knowledge about how stories work, and yes, I’ll be applying everything I’ve learned from years of study and practice to your manuscript.
But that’s only a part of what I bring. And honestly, it’s something you’re fully capable of gaining yourself elsewhere.
The Un-Podcast-Able Part of Editing
The special part of what I offer is something that you cannot replicate in your own self-editing process. It’s something I can’t even share on the podcast. Not that I don’t want to, but that I literally can’t—it’s not possible.
The most important thing I bring to your story is—well, it’s really several things:
Editors Bring Distance
It’s distance. I’m not close to your story like you are. I have a separation that you don’t have, and that inherently, automatically, immediately gives me the ability to see things in your story that you don’t see.
Editors Bring Engagement and Detachment
It’s attentive engagement. I am paying such close attention to what you’re creating. I’m engaging with it thoughtfully and thoroughly, looking for every opportunity for improvement.
And I’m doing that without the same attachment that you have to the words on the page and the material that you’ve already created. I’m looking at what’s possible, and I’m not so connected with what already exists that I miss the potential for what your story can be.
Editors Bring Passion
And in that vein, I bring passion for your story’s potential. I’m here to capture your vision, to understand what you’re aiming to create, and then pursue that vision at its highest level. I’m not here to be satisfied with stories that are just okay. I want us to realize your story’s vision in its fullest potential and create something your readers are going to love.
These three things—distance, attentive engagement, passion for your story’s potential—they are all intangible things, things you can’t teach or learn, things you can’t substitute by reading your own manuscript fifty times through yourself.
These are the things that you can only get by asking a book lover who is not you and did not write your story to join you in your editing process.
Learning Builds Skill; Editors Bring Perspective
Of course, these things don’t in any way negate all the tools and strategies you can learn through study and practice. When you have all the editing tools, when you build all the editing skills, you gain the ability to execute.
That means that when you get my feedback on your story, you’ll have more context to understand it and engage with it.
You’ll be able to more quickly brainstorm ideas and possibilities that could solve it.
You’ll be fully equipped to go make the changes you want to make on the pages of your story.
In other words, the more you build your editing skills—by listening to this podcast, reading books, taking courses, etc.—the more you’ll be able to self-edit your novel and the more easily you’ll be able to apply feedback that you receive.
Andalso, the truth is that editing your own writing is really hard.
So I hope you love this podcast. I hope you listen to every episode and take every single useful nugget back to your own story. I hope it helps you level up both your manuscript and your skills as a writer.
And if, even with all that, you still sometimes feel stuck, or lost, or insecure, or like you can’t tell what’s working and what’s not and what you should do next . . .
. . . know that that’s okay. That’s normal. Even highly successful authors who’ve published many books to raving fans work with editors. And it’s for this exact reason: editors bring something to your story that you can’t learn on a podcast or in a book.
When your editing process is working for you, keep going. Keep doing what you’re doing.
And if ever you get stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
Reach Out When You’re Stuck
In fact, just last week I updated my website with a fancy new form to make it even easier for you to connect with me so we can find the best ways we can work together.
If you go to this page, you’ll see a contact form. In that form, I’ll ask you a bunch of questions about your book—the genre, the word count, the premise, all kinds of good stuff that helps me get a sense of what you’re working on and whether I’m the best editor to help you take your novel to the next level.
Fill out that form and hit submit. I’ll read through your responses, and then I’ll send you an email. It might take a couple days, since I spend most of my time reading the manuscripts I’m working on, so my responses aren’t always the fastest, but watch for an email from me. And then we’ll set up a time to get on a call and talk about what you need and how I can help you.
And if we decide to work together, I will, of course, bring to your story all the editing strategies you hear on the podcast—at this point, the concepts you hear in these episodes are just how my brain works; it’s how I read and process story.
But just as importantly, and maybe even more so, I’ll bring distance, attentive engagement, and passion for your vision. And together, we’ll work some magic in your story.
After all, there’s a reason why no amount of writing craft resources have ever put editors out of business.
It’s been a wonderful year of editing for me, full of amazing stories and equally amazing writers. I hope it’s been a wonderful year of writing for you.
And if 2024 is the right time for us to work together, I will be delighted to dig into your story alongside you to help you make it the best it can possibly be.