Ann Bolch writes about the benefits of manuscript development, which we also call ‘story coaching’.

Many authors come to A story to tell having had a manuscript assessment of their novel, memoir, business or how-to book believing that their work is now ready for a copy edit. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

I think this is because the author has read the assessment and interpreted the feedback in their own way. (Which, of course, is the only way to interpret it!) But when it comes to change, most of us take the path of least resistance. This makes sense. Why waste time on unnecessary jobs? Why cause unnecessary pain? Why delay the inevitable fame and dollars that come from publication?

In our own work – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – we may take shortcuts that only slightly improve it, rather than approach the next draft with rigour. Being a novelist myself, I understand the pain of killing your darlings* be they characters, scenes, lines or even jokes that others don’t find so funny as the author does.

Some manuscripts come to us after assessment still with macro issues such as voice, structure, character and/or beginnings and endings. This occurs despite the writer earnestly and skilfully applying changes suggested by the manuscript assessor.

A story to tell has come up with a solution. (OK, it wasn’t our idea but there really aren’t that many others offering this service and we’re making it into an art form.) The person who reads, appraises and makes suggestions for improvement also works with you to develop the story, the voice and your style. They may also work with you at the copy-edit level; however, any good copy editor will grasp your voice quickly, respect it and interrogate it thoughtfully to help you produce your strongest work.

We call it story coaching. It doesn’t come cheap but it’s packed with value as your editor/coach has the compassion, experience and skill to tackle weaknesses that authors may have overlooked or ignored. It can be confronting work. But the rewards are a better story, clarity of purpose and more engaging prose. It’s also where the fun really begins! Authors get to come out of their caves and collaborate, wrestle with ideas and tussle for their position.

There’s a real energy to manuscript development. If you want to pursue your best work, contact us for a manuscript appraisal and don’t be surprised if we challenge you to do better. This is what A story to tell is all about.

May your words pour onto the page,

Ann Bolch

*The concept kill your darlings relates to deleting anything that you hold dear in your manuscript that doesn’t serve the story well. It can hurt as though you’ve murdered a friend.

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