My pedagogical philosophy on coaching and mentoring is that along with criticism, positive feedback must be given to the author. The last thing the mentor wants is for an author to quit or feel that the story isn’t worth saving. Most stories can be saved with hard work and dedication. It is also very important for the editor to point out the writer’s strengths as well as weaknesses so the result is a better written piece. My philosophy: attract more “bees with honey.” Stay positive and explain why the editor’s advice will make the story more polished. Another aspect that I strongly believe is that a well edited manuscript is much more likely to be taken seriously by agents and publishers. A novel with many grammar errors or plot issues can even hurt the writer’s reputation for further consideration. Not only is it imperative to have a well-crafted story, but also it must not contain multiple grammar problems. The editor shouldn’t conclude that the author needs to learn basic grammar and syntax. If such an incident occurs, the editor should suggest a grammar review before submitting the next rewrite.
The industry-specific technique that support this philosophy is to make sure the author has already edited the work before editing and critiquing. Beta readers are for rough drafts: an editor shouldn’t begin editing until after the author has already polished the work. This will also ensure that the feedback contains suggestions on ways to improve dialog, plot, and character development. Dialog is an excellent way to move a story forward; it should not only reveal some of situation but the description in paragraphs should also be fine-tuned as well.
Dialog should also seem authentic to the character. For example, a trucker may be more likely to be knowledgeable of roads and cuss profusely, so even foul language is appropriate for certain characters. Writing dialog as if a person were speaking means that it is not all in full sentences. Pausing is also normal in speaking and should be noted.
Typically, dialog tag lines should not include description but to simply put “said” or “replied” is usually correct. Showing movement and adding the five senses such as sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch into description makes the scene more vivid.
Editing means cutting unnecessary words out of dialog, perhaps every sentence. Too much description can make a story too wordy and turn off readers. Fine tuning each sentence is a way to ensure that the plot stays interesting and moves the action forward at a good pace.
My system of revision is to read the work, mark errors or problems, and then have the writer correct them. It isn’t the job of an editor to retype or rewrite; but for the author. After corrections are made, reread to double check that there are also no other grammar problems. If there are issues with plot or character development, the author should be given advice, but it is up to the author what advice to heed. It is very important for an editor to avoid being a ghost writer because then the story becomes the editor’s and not the author’s. The author must be willing to reread and reedit until all problems with the manuscript are fixed so the plot can move forward at a pace that will satisfy the reader.
In conclusion, my pedagogical stance on mentoring philosophy is not only to cut out unnecessary words, make dialog authentic, remove wordy tag lines but also to mix both positive feedback with criticism. Editing and Coaching should overall be a positive experience for a writer wanting to improve his/her work. An editor/coach should be honest but in an encouraging manner!