The eternal dilemma—to engage a writing coach first or just a manuscript editor? I wear both hats so let me spill the proverbial ink on and show you what to choose, to suit your writerly needs. Now, you could delve into my services, or you could simply enjoy this gratis advice. Your call.

Who Uses an Editor?

Editing is like using a GPS for a road trip you’ve already taken. Sure, it’ll correct your wrong turns, but wouldn’t it be more fun to learn the map before you embark?

~ Dr. Seuss

Editors are the unsung heroes of completed manuscripts, rescuing your prose from the depths of chaos. Completed your magnum opus and need it polished before the grand reveal? That’s when you engage an editor, armed with a red pen and a penchant for semi-colons.

Who Uses a Coach/Mentor?

Why be mentored? Because even Shakespeare had an editor. And it was probably the ghostwriter for Hamlet.

~ Anonymous Bard Enthusiast

Enter the coach/mentor, stage left. It’s not quite the same as editing. No, sir! Why? Because learning to write well is a skill that will serve you for the long-term. The better you write, the less the editor needs to do… and the less time and money you spend!

Though not often, but over the years, there have been manuscripts which were so ‘clean’ of grammatical errors that I only charged them for a critique—because that’s all the manuscript needed.

The Problem with Editing

Editing is to writing what McDonald’s is to fine dining. It fixes the immediate hunger, but the Michelin star? Not so much.

~ Jane Austen (if she were a modern-day editor)

Editing, bless its heart, is like playing catch-up with your manuscript’s misdemeanours. Repetitive? Oh, you bet. Imagine correcting semi-colons throughout your opus, akin to Groundhog Day with punctuation. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to have a coach whisper the secrets of punctuation into your shell-like ears long before the editor waltzes on to the scene? So you can nail it perfectly the first time? Why? Well, it’ll cost you a LOT less too—time as well as money. And you’ll have a much happier editor.

I recently edited a manuscript which was so fraught with errors so as to make me swoon in a dead faint. I woke up after twenty-years aka Rip Van Winkle, and yet found the manuscript sitting peacefully on my bosom. Jarred a couple of year’s growth outta me, I don’t mind confessing.

The author, in their unbridled enthusiasm, was convinced that more was always better than less—especially when it came to punctuation. There wasn’t a single sentence in it, therefore, which ended with just one punctuation. Sometimes it was a comma and period, sometimes a period and question-mark. Sometimes three and often four punctuations stood morosely in line at the end of a paragraph.

I will mince no words here; the wound is too recent.

Deleting each of the extra punctuations by hand did NOT put yours truly in good humour. For two pins I’d have done THINGS. That I didn’t, I consider one of my major life victories.

Most editors, self included, cut down on the fee we charge when the copy is ‘clean’… with only minor and occasional grammatical errors.

The Benefits of Mentoring

Mentoring is like having Yoda guide you through the writing galaxy. Fewer lightsabers, more punctuation tips.

~ George Lucas (if he were a writing coach)

Enter the mentor, wielding wisdom without having to wade through the entirety of your literary masterpiece. Two thousand words or a chapter—that’s the diagnostic dose for most writing maladies. Need a structural overhaul? A mentor can prescribe it without requiring a complete manuscript rewrite. It’s like getting a literary health check before you even start typing.

And the clincher? A mentor is not just an error identifier; they’re your writing sensei. A mentor teaches you how to dance with words, complete with examples and reasons why certain moves work.

But is Mentoring Pricier?

Pricey, you say? A mentor is like a thrift store treasure. Bargain rates, but the literary riches are priceless.

~Oscar Wilde’s fictional, frugal cousin

Contrary to popular belief, mentoring doesn’t have to cost an arm, a leg, and your first-born manuscript. A mentor doesn’t need to wade through 100,000 words. In a mere two hours, I once helped a fellow traverse three drafts of a short story. How? By reading, suggesting a structural facelift, and teaching him the art of dialogue improvement. Two hours and that was that.

Consider this: the money spent on mentoring might be less than the cost of editing a solo novel, yet it’s an investment in your writing evolution.

Decide Your Goals

To edit or to coach, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to correct typos or to take arms against writing woes.

~ Shakespearean Remix

So, dear writer, what’s your endgame? If you plan to make writing into a life-long pursuit—for pleasure or profit—it makes sense to learn how to do it right. If you yearn to level up your writing skills, then a coach/mentor is your literary sherpa.

How to Choose a Mentor?

The best mentor is like the unicorn: traditionally published, equipped with coaching finesse, and skilled in corporate or publishing wizardry. And yes, they should have a sparkly portfolio.

~ J.K. Rowling (if she were moonlighting as a mentor)

Now, for the grand finale—choosing a mentor. Seek the mythical unicorn of mentors: someone with coaching prowess and perhaps a dash of corporate or publishing magic.

Have you ever wished for a writing coach or mentor so you would avoid writing pitfalls and writing would become a breeze?

Can you identify any area in your own writing which might improve with the guidance of an expert? Tell us in the comments!