Think tennis coach or voice coach--an aging peer with experience and knowledge who provides guidance and gives informed feedback. Someone whose job is to help you meet your writing goals, whatever they are, at any level. If you want to improve your writing skills, demystify such perennial issues as "who you are writing for" and "what's point of view all about, or get a professional edit or critique, you've come to the right place.

There is no masters degree in editing that I've ever found. It is a profession (encompassing a number of distinct skills) that journalists, English majors, and (in the field of technical editing) even science majors stumble upon and then stick with when they discover the huge need and their own predilection. "Writing coach" is a term that wasn't even in use twenty years ago; it has come into being since the advent of the Information Age and the Internet, which have combined to increase the amount of material written, and the ease with which writers and editors (and now coaches) can communicate.

A good writing coach does what a good substantive editor* does (provides critical feedback on grammar, usage, structure, clarity, organization, as well as, for fiction, character, plot, and theme), with two important additions. First, since the writing coach works for you, the writer—not for a publisher—her job is to work with you toward goals that you set, according to your program and pace. Second, and most important, her job is to help you develop your skills over the long term, sharing her knowledge and objective opinions with you in as much detail as you want. An editor will make corrections and suggestions for improvement following standard writing conventions. A writing coach will do the same, but go a long mile farther by tying it into your own stated purpose—and she will tell you why.

For the record, a writing coach is not a "book doctor," a term made infamous in the last decade of the 20th Century by a few unscrupulous agents and editors who made a habit of fleecing newbie writers with promises of consideration for representation or publication that inevitably came to nothing. These days there are many respectable editors who call themselves book doctors. They focus on the book, while the writing coach focuses on the writer.

*As with much to do with writing, the word "editor" means nothing without some sort of context. Writers who say their book has been edited could mean that anything from a complete rewrite, a substantive edit, a critique, a copyedit, or a proofreading. To complicate matters, the same term (say, copyeditor) can mean different skills to different people. Then there are language editors, technical editors, managing editors, and so on. And now there is a type of computer software known as an "editor." Check out the entry for editor in Wikipedia for an overview.

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