Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader I Teacher

It often happens that a writer engages me for an assessment of her or his manuscript (fiction or non-fiction) and I end up mentoring the writer throughout the rewrites until the manuscript is ready to edit and proofread. I then review submission material to be sent to publishers. The support and guidance of a suitable mentor and/or editor is immeasurable, especially when a writer is ‘stuck’, or realises that she or he is losing objectivity, or even motivation.

Traditional avenues for publishing are still alive and well, but the slush pile is always high. Therefore it is imperative that a well-crafted manuscript, cover letter/email pitch, biography and synopsis are submitted. So many writers tend to rush this supplementary submission material. Publishers and agents read the supplementary material first: if it doesn’t engage them immediately, or if they judge the writing to be sub-standard, then they may not read the manuscript!

This scenario repeats itself over and over. A couple of my clients who experienced submission rejections before they contacted me, argued that they were encouraged by friends to submit their manuscripts without having them assessed, edited, or even proofread, because ‘publishers have editors’. They agreed that not only did they have stars in their eyes, but they had rocks in their heads!

Unfortunately, this was the case with Thupten Lekshe (TL), who is writing a Young Adult (Historical Fantasy) trilogy. He spent in excess of three years writing the first book, and approached me about editing what he had written so far because he had read my articles and thought we had a similar ‘sensibility’. TL had submitted to a few mainstream publishers before his manuscript, pitch letter, biography and synopsis had been reviewed and edited. I immediately felt the pain of his rejections. Fortunately he is open-minded, and accepted my ‘gentle’ scolding. I set to work and started editing his manuscript, suggesting ideas and changes, highlighting passages/words that might need rethinking. He has since self-published. I was delighted to receive these kind words of appreciation:

 Your help has really been excellent, of course in terms of ideas and editing, but also emotionally. Well worth the investment!!! 

Many new clients, such as TL, have told me that upon reading some of my website articles on writing, art, and my travels, they have an idea that there may be an understanding between us that goes beyond the traditional editor/author relationship.

Percy Rogers initially contacted me for a manuscript assessment of his remarkable autobiography, after which he asked me to edit and prepare it for submission to publishers. I was thrilled when Percy’s manuscript was published by Black Inc. and launched at Readings in Carlton. “Active Labour, the title of Percy Rogers’ autobiography, alludes to his work as an obstetrician pioneering the Lamaze method of childbirth, and his life-long commitment to social activism. . .” (Readings Monthly, September 2018)

Dear Denise, Many thanks for the way you have prepared and presented my memoir. I could not imagine at the start that it would turn out looking the way you have presented what now seems a very interesting life; in fact, I might live it again. Thank you and congratulations.

Choosing the right mentor and editor is not easy—writers need to shop around and get a ‘feel’ for the person with whom they will be entrusting their writing. And it’s not just the technical aspects of writing that a writer will gain by engaging a mentor/editor, but someone with whom he or she can talk to about ideas and future directions, and not be dictated to. It’s all about mutual respect.



Mentoring, Manuscript Assessment & Editing

If you’re looking for a writing mentor, or if you would like an assessment of your writing, whether it is a complete manuscript or a work-in-progress, then please email me via my contact page with a brief overview of your needs. I will give you an idea of the type of personalised service/s I can offer that I think would best suit you at this stage in your writing project (mentoringmanuscript appraisalediting, proofreading).


This post is an update of my January 2019 article: From Manuscript Assessor to Mentor to Editor: It’s all about mutual respect


Featured image: Johannes Vermeer, ‘A Lady Writing’, c.1665, oil on canvas, 45 x 39.9 cm, National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.

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