You’re part way through your first draft and you’re stuck about where to go next.

Writing a book is a long, hard haul, with many complex pieces that need to fit together just so. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to keep track of everything. All your ideas are great, but how do you know which are the right ones to pursue?

An outside perspective can be invaluable in your creative process. If you’re lucky, you have a good writing buddy who can be a responsive sounding board as you run through ideas, or you belong to writing group that is all to happy to point out where you’ve gone astray. If not, a developmental editor can serve as a story coach. We can review what you’ve written so far, listen to your ideas and offer potential solutions to help you untangle the story you’re trying to weave.

You’ve finished your first draft and you want guidance before you start revisions.

Congratulations! Writing the first draft is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do as a writer — except for writing the second draft. Chances are, the draft you finished isn’t anything like the book you set out to write, but is that a good thing or a bad thing?

When you bring your “messy first draft” to a developmental editor, we’ll look past the unpolished prose and grammatical errors to get at the story structure underneath. Does the plot make sense? Is there enough character development? What scenes need to be expanded, and which can be cut? You’ll come away with a roadmap for your revision process that will make it significantly easier to transform your work into a story you’re really proud of.

You’ve finished a few revisions, but your beta reader response is lukewarm.

You’ve gotten your manuscript to the point where you feel confident enough to get feedback from a few readers. Your mom loves it, of course, but a few writer buddies and maybe some paid beta readers don’t seem too excited. Maybe they don’t love the characters, or the plot is confusing to them, or they are just bored by what they’ve read. Maybe they even stopped reading partway through!

A developmental editor can help you sift through the early reader responses to get at the core problems, and offer solutions that won’t demand you go back to the drawing board. Your editor will help you refine what you’ve written, so that your readers become as enthralled with your story as you are.

You’ve revised and polished your manuscript, but agents and editors keep saying “no thanks.”

It’s rare to get critique back from submissions, so you probably have no idea why your manuscript keeps getting rejections. The truth is, there could be many factors involved, some of which have nothing at all to do with the quality of your manuscript.

An editorial appraisal or developmental edit can help you get a clear picture of just where you’re missing the mark. You probably don’t need deep revisions at this stage, but an expert outside perspective can help you find some teeth for your story, that little extra something that will help you elevate your story from “a good read” to “I can’t put it down!”

No matter where you are in the writing process, if you’re stuck or overwhelmed or just bewildered, a developmental editor is an investment that can make a concrete difference in the success of your book. Click here to read more about the developmental editing process and how I can help you tell the story you imagine.

Dropping “suddenly” at the beginning of a sentence is a shorthand way of creating tension due to an unexpected change in circumstances. But it is not meaningful tension, and it can disrupt the pacing of a scene without adding anything of value.

I do think there are appropriate times to use suddenly — usually when tension is already high. For example, someone is watching a tightrope performance when, suddenly, the wire snaps. In this example, the “suddenly” is a release from tension you’ve already established, the cat jumping out at you after you’ve slowly creeped down the stairs to the unlit basement.

When “suddenly” pops out on you in a low or no tension situation, though, it’s like Bilbo opening his door and finding Freddy Krueger there. Sure, it’s startling, but does it carry any real narrative value? Surprises in fiction are better when they are anticipated, at least on a subconscious level, which the crafty writer can do by carefully weaving in atmospheric distractions and clues before and during the surprise, and by depicting the POV character’s surprised reaction after.

So before that knife-wielding assassin steps out from behind the arras, make sure the POV char notices the arras, and the way the moonlight is making puddles of shadow on the floor, and how many things they have on their to-list for the next day, and then when there’s a whoosh of heavy fabric as the figure steps out in front of them, moonlight glinting off the tip of their blade, the reader’s heart will stop right along with the POV character’s, no suddenly needed.