What is Developmental Editing?

What to look for in a ghostwriter: talent vs. experience

Some of the best writers of all time have needed editorial assistance, and they were smart enough to seek it out.

Let’s say you talk to your editor, publisher, or ghostwriter about your manuscript, and the consensus is that your work would benefit from something more than line editing or copy editing. They recommend developmental editing. What does that mean? At Mark Graham Communications, developmental editing is the most proactive of the levels of editing that we do. With developmental editing, we work on the actual language of the book. We freshen or enhance descriptive passages. We up the action component. We hone dialogue. We modify word usage when necessary. Moreover, we do all of this while respecting the voice you have created. Does this mean sharpening the voice? Sometimes. Does this mean tweaking the tone? Only if it ups the presentation. Developmental editing can be extremely aggressive or no more than a gentle massage. In all cases, the end goal is make your manuscript more appealing to the reader. If it doesn’t accomplish this, then don’t do it. Editing for editing sake is a not only a waste of time, but can end up doing more harm than good.

Okay, you say, but the description we just explored sounds more like content editing than developmental editing. Where does the development come in? At Mark Graham Communications, this is where the communication between you and the editor is so crucial. This is where we talk about the holes in your story – assuming you’ve written a novel or a memoir – or missing pieces in your character development. This is where we talk about the strengths or weaknesses in your message – assuming you’ve written a business book or self-help book – or the redundancies or inaccuracies in your examples or anecdotes. This is where a true collaboration takes root between you and us and a real partnership develops.

Writing most definitely has a solitary component to it. There is, however, a point in time when sharing what we’ve written becomes necessary. Sometimes we need a discerning eye. Sometimes we need an honest appraisal. Sometimes we need a helping hand. Some of the best writers of all time have needed editorial assistance, and they were smart enough to seek it out. It is, I think, a lesson from which we can all benefit.

Writing an Effective Query Letter

Thiss award winning biography written by Paul Wayne and Mark Graham Communications

Everyone has an opinion as to what makes for a good query letter or cover letter when you’re submitting your book to a literary agent and/or publisher.  One thing most people agree upon is that your query or cover letter is the first thing an agent or editor sees, so it needs to be crafted with care and reflective of your writing style.

When we are consulting with clients at Mark Graham Communications, one of elements that we stress is that the query or cover letter– as important as it is – should NOT leave you feeling intimidated. Moreover, it should not be over-thought. Follow the rules, but let your skill have a free hand.

In our opinion, short and sweet is better than long and laborious. We favor a couple of paragraphs or in the area of 150 words, enough to convey your message without putting the agent or editor off.

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Content Editing vs. Copy Editing vs. Proofreading

The Gnome Tree

This e-published book, a fantasy novel for the teen and young adult readers, is a collaboration between James Ross and Mark Graham Communications.

There is often a mistaken perspective in the world of publishing – and self-publishing in particular – that editing, copyediting, and proofreading are the same, or at least cut from the same cloth. They aren’t. The similarities are important; but the differences are even more so.

Let’s begin with an overview of editing.  At Mark Graham Communications, we have two levels of editing that we offer our clients: developmental editing and content editing.

In both cases, you are looking for someone who can review your material, but also make substantive changes to the text that are meant to improve the pace, flow, and the overall quality of your writing.  With both developmental editing and content editing, your editor is working directly on the language of your piece. He or she might massage the dialogue, remove redundancies, add or subtract descriptions, and manipulate the action. Developmental editing goes a step further with suggestions and/or comments on where you as the author might make additional changes.

The goal is to bring your work to the highest level of presentation.  Continue reading

The Book Synopsis vs. The Book Description

Fallen Medicine: A Nurse's Dark Journey Through Ptsd, Drug Abuse and Sexual Addiction

This fascinating story of a nurse suffering from PTSD was a collaboration between D. F. Thompson and Mark Graham Communications.

Pretend you’re sending inquiries about your book to literary agents or publishers. Pretend you’re marketing your book on Amazon or GoodReads or Facebook. The former requires a synopsis of your book. The latter calls for a book description or book blurb meant to entice your readership.

Let’s begin by saying that a book synopsis and book description are not synonymous.  There are differences, and authors like you and I would be well-served to know what the differences are.

At Mark Graham Communications, we are frequently asked to define the two. A synopsis gives a concise but entertaining summary of the plot of your novel, the events behind your biography, or the driving message behind your business book or self-help book. A well-written synopsis mirrors the voice, tone, and style of the actual book. A synopsis needs to grab the attention of the agent or publisher you’re querying and sell your idea. If it’s a novel or biography, you have a finite number of words to blow your reader away with regarding your plot and your characters. If it’s a business book or self-help book, you have the same limited number of words to sell the uniqueness of your message and why you are the right person to write such a book.

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Ghostwriting a Commercially Viable Self-Help Book

This power-packed stepmom guide is a collaboration between Kristin E. Smith and Graham Publishing Group

This power-packed stepmom guide is a collaboration between Kristin E. Smith and Graham Publishing Group

There is a baseline message for every successful self-help book. In short, it says to the reader: “You can’t live without this. It will help you achieve what you want to achieve and get exactly what you want to get.”

This message is exactly what the reader wants to hear and expects to hear, and that is the beauty of it.  Remember upfront that whatever “self-help” tool, lesson, or product you are writing about, your reader wants to be convinced that your message will aid them in changing their lives.

A commercially viable self-help book is not fluff. If all you have is fluff, you might want to think about writing a different book. Your reader has a goal; your job is to present practical and practicable tools to reach that goal.

At Mark Graham Communications, we believe a step by step layout of your self-help message serves three purposes:

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Learning to Write

This how-to business book that teaches methodology on home performance based selling is a collaboration between Arne Raisanen and Mark Graham Communications.

This how-to business book that teaches methodology on home performance based selling is a collaboration between Arne Raisanen and Mark Graham Communications.

Writing like the writers that you admire may not be as impossible as you imagine it.  They have all gone through the same struggles that we all go through.  They have all had to learn to rewrite, edit, and rewrite again.  They all have a process. They might not want you to be aware of the process, because then you’d be able to mold your average first draft into a magnificent second draft and an even better third draft.

At Mark Graham Communications, we have a saying: Writing is like mining. What you initially dig up might not look like much, but once it’s been cut and polished, it starts to look and read like the gem you were hoping to find.

Here are a few tips for taking that first draft of yours and enhancing it into that very special book you’ve dreamed of for years.

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Ghostwriting a Powerful Memoir

This eye-opening memoir from a Vietnam POW was written by Robert Wideman, Cara Lopez Lee and Mark Graham Communications

A memoir can be as powerful and moving as any work of non-fiction and more compelling than any novel. There is nothing like a true story, and it is very likely that you have an event or series of events in your life that have the potential to entertain and exhilarate readers of all ages.

At Mark Graham Communications, we have helped hundreds of people bring their memoirs to life, and there are several rules that we always share with our clients and make absolutely certain are part of their books.

First. It is important that you know the difference between a memoir and a biography. A biography covers a person’s life from beginning to end. A memoir narrows the focus on to a snapshot, if you will, from your life. This event, or events, may cover a month, a year, or five years, but there is generally one theme that carries the story. Think of it like this: if you were taking six months to tour the European continent, your memoir would focus on the most exciting, compelling week.

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A Great Idea Doesn’t Necessarily Make for a Great Book

#5 Samaritan Court

This moving and powerful biography was written by Maria Mai-Thuy Swenka and Mark Graham Communications.

Everyone has said this at one time or another: “I have a great idea for a book.”

The percentage of those people who actually follow up on that great idea is, well, practically none.

Writing is work.  Hiring a professional ghostwriter is work. Both take time, commitment, and resolve.  Starting isn’t necessarily the problem. Many people with a great idea have actually picked up a pen and written a few words.  Many people have actually placed a call with a professional ghostwriter. Starting is not the problem. Finishing is.

If your goal in writing that amazing book is to make money, you might start, but you probably won’t finish. Why? What’s missing?  Answer: passion. Answer: the desire to see that wonderful idea in print with your name on the cover.  Now that is a great feeling.

At Mark Graham Communications, we always ask our clients: Why do you want to write this novel, or this biography, or this business book? If the answer comes from a place deep in the soul, then we’re onto something special. Continue reading

WRITING AN EXCEPTIONAL BUSINESS BOOK

Wow Moments

This engaging how-to business book on customer interaction is a collaboration between Mark Kent and Mark Graham Communications

There are literally thousands of business men and women with proprietary knowledge and years of experience in their particular field worthy of a business book.

This is knowledge you should share for several reasons.  One, there are many entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs who would benefit from your knowledge and experience. Two, the workplace is starved for innovative thinking, and successful business people need to share such thinking. Three, your legacy as a successful business person deserves preserving.

You may be asking: what do I know about writing a book? Even if the answer is absolutely nothing, there are means available to you that many others in your position have utilized.  As a successful business owner or manager, you have always hired the best people and allowed them to do their jobs.  Writing a book is no different. Hire the best ghostwriter you can; let him or her shape your knowledge and experience into something very special.

Let’s start with things you need to know.

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The Questions Every Great Ghostwriter Asks

This wonderful self-help book on teaching horsemanship to children with autism is a collaboration between Nacon Wilde and Mark Graham Communications.

This wonderful self-help book on teaching horsemanship to children with autism is a collaboration between Niki Wilde and Mark Graham Communications.

Whether you are hiring a Ghostwriter to assist you in writing a novel, biography, business book, or self-help book, the ones who really know what they are doing will ask a number of very important questions. If they don’t ask them, then they are probably only in it for the money, and if that is the case, keep looking.

At Mark Graham Communications, our first question is always, why? Why do you want to write this novel or biography? Why is it important to share your business acumen or your self-help message? If there is passion in your answer, we always hear it, and we always tap into that passion. If you’re only writing your book hoping for a big payday, we hear that too and understand that the key element in creating a special book is missing.

Our next question is about your audience. Who are you trying to reach?  Who are you trying to entertain or instruct?  Your answer affects everything moving forward.  We tailor the voice, tone, and style specifically to that audience. We find out what about your story or your message, your life lessons or business lessons appeal to that audience. We consider ways to broaden your audience without diluting the core message you’re delivering.

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