I always tailor my approach to the needs and interests of the writer I’m working with. After talking about your work and your goals we will be in a position to discuss package options. So please take a few minutes to introduce yourself and tell me about the story you want to tell.
Keep in mind: the short stories and novels you love best were written one word at a time. That’s how you get where you’re going.
“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Fiction | Editing
Fiction | Editing
So you’ve got an outline of a novel, or a couple chapters, or even a whole novel sitting in a drawer, and now you’re stuck. It’s not finished — you know that much — but how to move forward, that’s the issue that has stopped you in your tracks. How do you revise? What needs revision? Is that bit about the dog running out of the bar too much, as you fear, or is it the perfect counterpoint to the scene at the convent?
Why doesn’t anybody who has read the draft seem to understand what you’re trying to say? How seriously should you take Aunt Jo’s criticism about your main character being too creepy or your brother’s reaction to the conflict as boring? What is the point-of-view business people keep talking about?
What I can do for you is this: We’ll talk on the phone, and you’ll tell me about your project. If I believe I can help you with it (something I will be able to tell you right away) I will read your draft and analyze it, and then we’ll have a full consultation, in person or on the phone, for about 90 minutes.
My goal is to get you to a place where you are able and willing to push ahead with your project, so I will always start with what works and the strengths of the manuscript. Then I will provide close, substantive remarks on characterization, dialog, plotting, theme, imagery, and pacing. My final recommendations may require you to do a lot of work, but then it’s up to you whether you take that advice in whole or part, or not.
The 90 minute consultation may be enough, or you might decide you want to continue to work on your draft with me. We can set up a series of one-hour phone sessions to do that.
Next year you might decide you would like to start from scratch with the 90 minute consultation. And that would be fine, too.
Please note that I am talking about story consultation which is different from editing. The editing process is long and labor intensive, requiring line-by-line close reading, and for the most part it’s not what you’ll need from me.
I work best with clients who are willing to be honest and clear about their needs, both in the planning stages and during execution. If something is not going as planned, I am always willing to discuss and to do brainstorming sessions, which will often help shake loose new ideas and approaches.
You may have partially developed outline for a novel that seems to be permanently stuck. I can brainstorm with you about your characters and provide guidance on technical and practical matters including the structuring of a story arc and establishing time and place. For example, if you would like to fictionalize a particular experience from your childhood or write about a fictional character based on Kafka, I can work with you on point-of-view, setting, and characterization until your outline is so solid that you are ready to get to work.
Unfortunately, expertise in a particular subject is not enough to write a successful article or book. Whether you’re writing about sailing or child rearing or the Crimean War, you still have to engage your reader’s interest and keep it. I can help you identify the hook that will draw in readers, and to find the voice that will keep them captivated.
There are many books available on writing non-fiction. I especially recommend Miller and Paola’s Tell it Slant.
You may not have the time you would need to research a topic crucial to your work in progress. I am available to conduct in-depth research, and will provide you with a written report, fully documented, annotated and sourced. I can include copies of source documents in the final package, if so desired. Subjects I have taken up in the past include
- Early smallpox vaccination procedures, for which I unearthed the original 1802 hand-written notes of the head physician at the New York City almshouse.
- The roles Native American tribes in Louisiana played in the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans, which required interviews with historians and re-enactors.
- Epidemiology and history of prions, the pathogen that causes transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), or neurodegenerative diseases in mammals such as the so-called Mad Cow Disease, for which I conducted an interview with the head of Contagious Diseases, University of Michigan, Pediatrics.
- The role of linguistic profiling in violations of fair housing ordinances, for which I consulted with EEOC attorneys.
- The horse in 19th century New York City, a project which involved reconstruction of contemporaneous street maps and study of newspapers and journals of the time.
I often speak at seminars and creative writing workshops on the creative process, on the representation of dialect in dialogue, on research methods for writers of historical fiction, and on various linguistic topics of interest to specialists as well as a wider audience. If the event in question is academic/non-profit, I do not charge a speaking fee. Please contact me if you would like to discuss the possibility of my joining an event you are developing.
For twelve years I was a university professor with an excellent reputation as an instructor and mentor. I can design short-term courses for any facet of fiction writing, for individuals or small groups. In the near future I hope to be able to offer short classes online.
Author readings of my published work are best arranged through the publisher of the novel you would like me to read from.