After many years of developing and editing manuscripts, we know that through personal coaching we can assist more individual writers in more meaningful ways and at much lower cost than is possible by doing the hands-on work ourselves. Through the coaching relationship, clients develop their abilities and hone their unique talents along with their work. They are fully engaged. Such self-development is an essential requirement for the serious writer. No one else can do it for you.
For more experienced writers, the coaching relationship provides the objective framework within which the client becomes an increasingly effective critic of his or her own work while acquiring ever more effective devices and avenues for expressing and illuminating manuscript themes.
It is a known fact that publishing editors are more likely to read and accept well-prepared, technically correct manuscripts. This important area includes publishing standards and their application to preparation of the physical manuscript, including margins, type styles, and headings. Links in this section provide additional details on recommended reference works for writers and an opportunity to buy them if desired. Links under Online Resources to the left are to especially helpful organization web sites.
It is recommended that clients with book manuscripts (especially) obtain the latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, published by the University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual has been the accepted guide for writers, editors, and publishers for nearly 100 years and, in its most recent edition, is an essential fixture on every serious writer’s desk, regardless of the type of work involved.
In addition to its specific interest for writers in psychology, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is a good general style reference and provides current guidance on information technology and internet source citations; another important resource for online publishing conventions is the Modern Language Association's MLA Style Manual. The MLA also publishes a Style Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
All writers also need a good general-purpose dictionary. Over the years we have found the Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, to be the handiest and most comprehensive of the desktop dictionaries. Some writers like to have a thesaurus handy as well. Roget's International Thesaurus, published by Harper Resource, is a good one.
In addition to the reference works cited above, academic, technical, and science writers will need a copy of any manuscript preparation guidelines published by the institution for which the writing is intended. Academic and scientific meetings and symposia for which proceedings will be published also provide author guidelines.
Editorial Style and Continuity
Style is expressed in two entirely different ways in written works. One is the writing “style” associated with a particular author. The other is editorial style, that mundane but essential matter of ensuring consistent treatment of punctuation, spellings, abbreviations, names and terms, numbers (to spell or not to spell), quotations and extracts, references and bibliographies, and the like. Such style items are treated authoritatively in the Chicago Manual.
The University of Chicago Press maintains an excellent online resource for authors on its web site, detailed responses to author and editor questions about manuscript preparation and, mostly, style conventions. Far more than a simple FAQ (despite its name) this web resource is an important adjunct to the Chicago Manual itself both for the specifics it conveys and for the introduction it provides new authors to what we would call “the language of editorial style.”
Continuity is an essential editorial characteristic of successful writing in all genres. It is a quality that is akin to “integrity.” Simply put, continuity means that there are, for example, no characters or subplots gone missing or appearing out of context in unfamiliar garb, or situations described that assume reader knowledge of happenings that have not yet occurred. For the most part, lapses in continuity are the natural consequences of a writer’s intimate mental familiarity with his or her work. The author’s mind automatically fills in the blanks whereas readers cannot. For this reason, continuity problems often are more readily identified by persons other than the author; finding and solving them- is an integral element of the editorial review process.
Book Proposal Preparation
For a work that is in its early stages of development, it is necessary to prepare a book proposal for submittal to literary agents, and we are prepared to assist. However, interesting an agent or publisher in even a beautifully conceived book idea is extremely challenging and, for a first-time author, virtually impossible absent other considerations (such as celebrity). For a completed manuscript, a letter accompanied by sample material usually will suffice, depending on the agency.
Preparation of materials for marketing the work and its author to agents and publishers focuses on brevity and persuasive impact, the competitive position of the proposed book in the market, selection of representative manuscript material, and author credentials, including previously published works, additional writing in the pipeline, and ability/availability to assist in marketing.
We currently provide word processing support for Microsoft Word; we also can accept MS Word email attachments. We do not offer word processing as a service. Nearly all our clients who use Word benefit from some coaching on features that immensely aid the writer’s task. Many benefit from our coaching in Word basics as well.
Styles provide a fast and easy way to reformat previously entered material and ensure the consistency of added material. Without assigned styles, it is not possible to create and update tables of contents automatically. For publishers that accept manuscripts on disk for design and production, the correct use of styles ensures consistent application of the specifications for different design elements.
Search and replace is useful tool that often is underutilized. Another timesaver is the use of shortcut keys for navigation and to insert symbols. There are many more.
The most effective mode for coaching computer skills is by phone, with both parties tracking the same actions on the same software. This coaching is provided as an ongoing service for our client authors; it is available on an hourly basis as well.
Navigating the web and using search engines effectively are important internet skills for writers. The internet, used with caution, can be a valuable source of content as well as verification for research, bibliographic data, and other necessary information. The caution comes when the web is used as a primary source without further investigation, especially for quoted material (which may be found in several versions ostensibly from the same source).
For writers there are many web sites offering information about, and links to, editing services, literary groups and organizations, publisher and literary agencies, and the technical aspects of writing for internet publication. Much of the available information is useful, but discernment is essential. Over time, we will provide links to sites we believe are reputable and useful.
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