Archive for Writing Tips

How A Good Editor Works

At a crucial juncture after the climactic scene when the subplot needed attention, his novel went in an unexpected direction.  As his editor, I suggested removing the newly-introduced subplot to naturally steer the protagonist to the crucial needs of the woman he loved, the only issue to be addressed for final resolution.  The author read my notes and heard my rationale, yet remained skeptical.

Weeks later during revisions, we chatted about a software challenge, and he brought up his continued attachment to the new subplot.  I further explained my emotional reaction and logical reasoning.  He stated his case from a different angle, and I could tell that it was not only important to him but also to the future of a brewing sequel.

red.100 - goodI felt an idea rise like a jolt of electricity, flashing up my spine to the top of my head.  I shared the basic premise of how the setup of the subplot could be incorporated earlier.  He responded encouragingly.  I shared the entire brainstorm.  He added his creativity to it, and the issue was suddenly a beautiful turning point, one that solved another plot issue too.

Delighted, we laughed, and then he said, “Maybe I’m naïve, but I’ve got to ask:  Is this the way a normal editor works?”

“In my opinion, yes.  A good one anyway.”

I explained good editors work differently.  After acknowledging my client’s work with editors on his other books—usually without contact beyond rote emails and corrections in the text, many of which were computer-generated—I shared about those who inspired me to do the work I’ve chosen to do.

I remembered when my high school English teacher made me editor of the yearbook.  I said, “But I don’t know how to do that,” and he confirmed, “Sure you do.  You’ll be great!”  And that was that.  I knew I could trust him for guidance.

In addition to new skills, he taught me a good editor has a fearlessness to encourage creativity’s experimentation and bold ideas in collaboration. My teacher recognized and affirmed the good, then build upon it.

Among college professors and editors for print media, corporate communications, and theatrical productions, my greatest mentor was a magazine editor who was clear in direction before I began my work and supportive in the process through revision.  Once she took her turn with my copy as she readied it for print, I was hard pressed to find her changes.

She taught me to build relationship on clear vision to encourage writers and to hone my editorial skills to enhance the writing, elevating both the writer’s voice and the final product’s intended message.

The best editing isn’t a one-way street where some unseen person puts their mark on a writer’s work.  From both editors and clients I’ve worked with, I’ve learned it’s imperative to have a friendly relationship with both the writing and the writer.  Don’t turn the process competitive or argumentative with ego.  The union of writer and editor is collaborative with clear communication, keen listening, and openness to discovery and growth.  Yes, editing is a science in the sense of the rules and formats to follow, but it’s also creative.

To the writer on the phone, I added, “This is how I work.  It works well for me and for many others too.”

He agreed, parting with the promise of a quick return of the revisions and a commitment to begin work on his next book while I edited the current one.

Creative Coaching and Editing

Hocus Focus

In May I did something totally magical: I unplugged. For an entire week.

SGIsland.May.2015.wayne.south.smithI went to a quiet beach with friends and rarely checked my Iphone, which vacationed in my bedroom drawer. For several days, I had stints alone on the beach for big sums of time. After putting up an umbrella, settling into my chair and getting some water from the cooler, I sat and watched the waves.

I breathed deeply as I reminisced on all the editing I’ve completed for writers and myself through the first half of the year. Then I noticed how odd it felt not to have my phone near me, even though it’s silenced for good focus when I work. I pondered the magical world we live in, one where we can simultaneously communicate with various people, use various electronics, surf various platforms, and allow bombardment by a cacophony of various images, sounds, and messages, if we so choose. Yet sitting on that beach, I felt nervous and untethered without possession of my only timepiece.

Soon, those thoughts and worries were out to sea. My mind focused on what was in front of me: the beauty and mystery where I’d yearned to spend time. Thoughts washed ashore and receded back with the undertow. Bliss. Each day when I went inside and checked my phone for the time, I was surprised by how long I’d been basking in relaxation.

Upon my return to Atlanta, I followed my usual strategies. Phone alerts off. I know to do my best work, I must be as present as possible, to not only be in my complete self but to be in my total project to face it fully.

SGIsland.May.2015 110I know writers who don’t, and oftentimes their process and work suffer the consequences. Can you be aware when writing while listening to the radio or TV, eating lunch, and glancing at your phone for texts, emails, tweets, and posts? And here’s one—how can you hear your own thoughts while combining writing with listening to an instructional video on writing?  Writing can require fancy “footwork,” but it isn’t Zumba…

You split your focus and your creative power as you attend to other things—even if randomly and for a flash of time—while trying to write. And since the opportunity to write can be hard to secure, when you find precious time to write, honor it. Recognize your creative time as a divine gift. Treasure and treat it as a blessing. Be grateful for it, make choices with the integrity of your heart, and use it wisely.

Many have proved the ability to do a lot all at once. When you do, you may collect tidbits of awareness and nuggets of wisdom. But imagine what can happen when you focus your efforts into one determined energy, and nurture the writing in front of you? Magic, that’s what.

Client Success: Women’s Empowerment Author Suzanne Justice Carr

“I had no idea writing this book would affect me as much as it has,” author Suzanne Carr said.

The New Third Act: A Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond is an invitation to empowerment culled from the author’s life and the two decades of therapeutic work she has facilitated for women. “As I wrote, I saw my life more deeply and understood more than I had before.”

Suzanne.Justice.CarrCarr, 81, known by most simply as Suzanne, has lived through cultural changes, including women’s liberation. Not long after women burned their bras for emancipation, Suzanne held her baby on her lap while she took exams toward earning her PhD. Following careers as a music teacher, high school counselor and college professor, Suzanne became a licensed therapist at age 53. She still practices today.

Among stories of women illustrating the challenges and triumphs on the path to an inspired life, Suzanne’s book also looks at her own life story during what is nostalgically viewed as a “simpler time,” but one no less relevant as a mirror of opportunities for personal growth. For subsequent generations, dreams fostered in childhood still got lost among the responsibilities of family and career. She believes The New Third Act is the ideal time for rediscovery and reclamation of joy and fulfillment during life’s pinnacle. Her first published book is a positive affirmation of this truth.

“Beyond my dissertation, I hadn’t thought much about writing a book,” Carr said, “and then you came along.”

Suzanne and I met in the early 90s when I rented office space from her in my beginning years as a writing coach and editor. She joined one of my journaling groups and liked the camaraderie, which gave her an extra incentive to write for and about herself.

When she shared her seminar handouts and group discussion topics with me, I recognized the foundation of the book’s structure. As she began to expand these into chapters, I posed additional questions and reflections, fueling her strength, inner investigation and writing further. The greatest gift which emerged was her kind, encouraging voice and how she used her own life as living example, allowing herself to be questioned and challenged while also gently guiding participants to reach larger goals. As we progressed, Suzanne came to trust that her work easily translated to the printed page.

Every author’s process is different, and Suzanne’s work, no doubt like her clinical psychotherapy methods, was patient and thorough. Like an archaeological dig on sacred ground, precious artifacts of her life and work were carefully uncovered, polished, pieced together and fully considered, then thoughtfully arranged.

Suz.Third_Act _Cover_review2 - CopyAs the spiraled continuum on the book’s cover illustrates, life simultaneously moves onward and goes inward. Suzanne uncovered deeper meanings of authenticity and feminine strength, embraced change while silencing the inner critic, and celebrated her true work through new and revised words. With starts and stops as the book took its turn among her array of life’s responsibilities and joys, writing and editing became a ten-year labor of (mostly) love. The New Third Act became a vital part of her fulfillment in her own Third Act.

“I’ve opened up to things I might not have otherwise looked at or shared,” Suzanne said. “When I wrote this, it was more for me. I was writing to get clear for myself.”

And her search for genuine clarity and personal empowerment, now in print, invites other women to experience their unique journey through its reflection. What was her gift to herself and her community of clients is now a gift to women everywhere.

The New Third Act: A Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond is available on Amazon in paperback for $9.99.

Cover design and author photo by Laura Nalesnik,

Info on Writer’s Coaching and Editing.

Client Success: International Education / Self Help Author Alex Smith

Study U Abroad, newly released in paperback and e-book by Alex Smith, explores the student’s opportunities abroad to go beyond classroom learning and challenge ideas about self and the world to make a conscious impact on both. The book’s 5 Keys and insightful stories of students’ experiences create an easy-to-use framework to tackle challenges and get the most out of the experience abroad and back home.

Alex Smith Author 1“I’m fascinated with international life and how one’s identity shifts throughout the experience abroad,” Alex said. “The growth can be both rewarding and painful.”

As a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, Alex saw the opportunity to introduce proven coaching strategies into the experience. “I specifically wanted to write for university students going abroad because they are tomorrow’s leaders. They will impact change in the world.”

Traveling, studying, and living abroad all influenced Alex’s perspective from an early age. “I knew I wanted to live abroad after my first trip to Europe at thirteen years old. I spent two weeks in Iceland and the following year spent two weeks in Germany. During both trips I stayed with local families and had a truly immersive experience. It was amazing to meet these people and learn new ways of being.”

As a young adult, his semester in Seville was such a rush that he didn’t want to leave, a theme explored in the book which is common for many study abroad students. He did, however, find a way to move abroad again, living in Barcelona and Madrid before settling in Malmö, Sweden…for now.

“I continue to live the material in my book every day. I’m 34 years old, old enough to have lived and experienced life yet still young enough to be able to relate to university students. As an expat having moved to yet another country, my everyday life is similar to that of study abroad students.” This discovery of self and place is fuel for a quality life of growth and happiness.

Alex Smith Study U Abroad coverAnother goal for the book is to impact the current conversation, both in the U.S. and worldwide, about increasing the number of students going abroad each year. “My hope is that Study U Abroad can add to the dialog by emphasizing the equal importance of ‘how’ we send students abroad. If we don’t equip students with the proper tools, the experience can turn into missed opportunities.”

Coming from personal experience of studying and living abroad, Alex’s inspiration and excitement transfers to the reader through his words. “I believe in the power of study and travel abroad to change the world. It’s when we open our minds and connect with curiosity to the people, places, and things around us that we create more understanding and compassion for them. It’s been my experience that through this, we can awaken to the same for ourselves.”

After our work together through drafting, revision and copy edit, Alex shared, “Working with Wayne in distance coaching sessions and editing gave me the support I needed to publish my book.”