David Colin Carr, Editor and Writing Coach



From my presentation at the 2013 San Francisco Writer’s Conference, at which I was also offering 15 minute free editorial consultations.  This includes other two panelists and audience questions. Run time 44 minutes.

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Writing Coach

  • Helps with developing the ideas you want to write about, setting timelines, as well as keeping you writing and working through blocks.
  • Helps keep your perspective: Is this project relevant to your life and the world? to your heart? Is it worth the investment of time and money?

Ghost Writing 

  • Writes the text from ideas and research “author” has gathered.


  • Before you start writing, helps develops the logical order of your concepts.

Structural Editing 

  • Of a completed draft – arranges the content so the reader is offered necessary information in a logical sequence.


  • Gives a specific stylistic tone and consistency throughout the text

Text Enrichment

  • Clarifies concepts, adds nuanced precision in word choice, invokes rich vocabulary to enliven the text and enthrall the reader. 


  • Insures that facts are correct and that the timing of story events agrees with events in the historic world.

Copy Editing  

  • Cleans up grammar and punctuation to publishing standard (Chicago Manual or AP Style) or develops consistency of style specific to the intention of the specific manuscript. Here’s a  sample marked up page.


Editors may not be good proofreaders.  (I’m not – my mind moves too fast to focus on details.) Commercial publications often have three proofreaders sign off on every project. This is a specialized skill (and from the state of publishing you have probably noticed how rare it is).

Bringing out the best in you

  • An editor can move you forward from wherever you are – and pull you out of the morass when you are slogging.
  • Working with an editor can be enjoyable, educational, and personal – a true collaboration.
  • You, the writer, are in control – of content (by frequent communication) and cost (by agreement) and timing (as much as possible.)
  • You, the writer, own the content and have the right to confidentiality.

Questions to ask yourself before hiring an editor

  • How much help do I want?
  • Do I want someone to collaborate in developing the material?
  • Do I want someone to teach me to write well?
  • What help do I want?
  • Do I want to give over what I have – whether research material or rough draft – and never have to look at it until it is ready for my approval?
  • Do I want to approve one chapter before allowing my editor to move forward?
  • For references, may I talk with writers you’ve worked with before?

Questions to ask an editor before you commit

  • What do you do as an editor? (see the Skills above)
  • Are you conversant with my subject?
    • If NO: You are likely to be end up with a logically structured, clear text
    • If YES: For esoteric subjects, this can be very useful. You don’t want to be paying your editor to learn a strange language/map, if there is another qualified editor who knows your material.
  • Can we meet in person? (This is important to some writers, while others can work comfortably by email and phone or skype.)
  • Can we collaborate – on style, content, details, research?
  • Will you wrestle with me to give me the product I want?


  • How do you charge?
  • What do you need in order to give me a bid?
  • How firm is the bid?
  • When do you require payment?
  • What happens if I don’t like the work you produce for me? (Approving one chapter at a time is a way to prevent this.)

Questions to expect an editor to ask you

  • Where do you think you are in the process?
  • What do you want me to do? (Collaborate? Structural analysis? Help develop, then guide the writing? Ghost write? Clean up the writing? Teach you to be a better writer? NOTE: These categories are not mutually exclusive.)
  • Who is your audience?
  • What action or feeling do you want to inspire them to?
  • What is your personal goal for this project?
  • If you have completed a draft, do you have a chapter synopsis (so that as I read, I can tell if you are approaching your goal logically)?
  • To create an estimate, you will need to send … (this will depend on the piece, what needs to be done, etc.)
  • How much work do you want to do yourself? (I do a much better editing job working on hard copy, then making inputting changes at the computer. My clients can save money and monitor every change I suggest by inputting the changes themselves. They also learn to think like an editor, which helps them learn the craft of writing .)
  • Do you want me to send you each chapter when I am done? (I recommend that the first one at least be haggled over until the editor knows exactly what you want – then the editor can proceed with confidence to the end without further delay and interruption from the writer.)
  • What is your time frame? (Sometimes I ask this first, because I may already be too obligated to meet it.)

Evaluating an editor’s contribution to a finished product

Commercially published books are printed with the editor’s work intact. Vanity published book may have been edited or not. Self-published books may exhibit the editor’s final touches, or may have been changed by author.