Merilyn Simonds
Merilyn Simonds, the Book Coach

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.   Merilyn Simonds | The Book Coach   .

In 35 years of writing, I’ve made just about all the mistakes a writer can make, and I’ve learned how to fix them by working with some of the best editors in Canadian publishing. I find it exciting to share what I’ve learned with other writers, to coach them as they work towards publication.

I do manuscript evaluations and intensive editing of stories or book-length manuscripts, in fiction or creative nonfiction. Some of my favourite tips are available on iTunes. Or you can book a one-week intensive editorial consultation in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – writing casita included!

Each year I mentor a limited number of writers, so that I can give them my full attention. Most of the writers I’ve worked with get their work published. Here’s what some of them have to say about my process.Working with an editor is intimate, intensive, and expensive, so it is important to choose wisely. This Blog can help you make the best choice for you.

Click on the headings below for detailed information on what to expect from the process, what it will cost, and how we can get started.

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Manuscript Evaluations

What to expect

A manuscript evaluation is a complete and thorough review of the work. I read it through carefully and make comments on basic elements of craft such as voice, point of view, structure, character, dialogue, and setting as well as language, research, and formatting issues. This is not an edit: I do not mark up the manuscript pages. Instead, I prepare a report which usually runs 8-12 single-spaced pages.

When you submit the manuscript, I encourage you to include a brief note outlining the issues that are of most concern to you. I will keep a particular eye out for these. After I submit the report and you've had time to digest it, we discuss it briefly by email, phone, Skype, or if circumstances allow, in person. If you feel you'd like a more intensive consultation or a mentoring [link] situation to help deal with some of the difficulties in the manuscript, we can discuss the details of such an arrangement at that time.

My comments will be direct and honest. Although I pay attention to what works, more often than not, I note what doesn't. I will look at what you are trying to achieve, assess how well you succeed, and suggest what you can do to bring the manuscript to a publishing standard. My comments will be concrete, with examples.

Be forewarned: it won't be easy to hear these things. It never is. But my goal in the manuscript evaluation is to give you a snapshot of where you are in the work and to help you think more deeply about your material and what remains to be done to bring it to where it has the best possible chance of being published.

For evaluations, I prefer to work with a paper manuscript. Manuscripts for evaluation must be printed on white paper, double-spaced, one side only, with proper margins and pagination. Depending on my schedule, an evaluation can usually be prepared within 2-4 weeks. The manuscript will be shredded following the evaluation. It can be returned if return postage is supplied.

What it will cost

$300 for the first 100 pages
$2 per page thereafter

For example, evaluation of a 350-page manuscript will cost:
$300     100 pages
$500     $2 x 250 pages
$800

Payment is in advance, based on the page count. Payments can be by cheque, Paypal, or email bank transfer. I provide invoices for your records.

Note: For Canadian writers, I am obliged to charge HST of 13%. This is tax-deductible as a professional writer’s business expense.

How we can get started

If you are interested in working with me, please write to me at info@merilynsimonds.com.

If, after we talk, you decide to go forward with an evaluation, we’ll work out a schedule that suits us both, I’ll send you a letter of agreement, you’ll send me a cheque, and we’ll get started.

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Mentoring and Hands-On Editing

What to expect

Mentoring usually begins with a manuscript evaluation. This has benefits for both of us. A manuscript evaluation will show you how I work, what I notice, and if I “get’ your vision for the book. For me, it provides a clear sense of what the writing needs and what I can offer you. Following a manuscript evaluation, I’ll be able to lay out fairly accurately what needs to be done and how much time it will likely take.

If the manuscript evaluation leads to a mentoring agreement, I apply a discount to the first mentoring payment.

If you don’t want a full manuscript evaluation, I charge a reading fee to look at the manuscript to assess whether I can be of help.

Once I’ve looked at the manuscript (through an evaluation or a reading), I like to meet in person, by phone, or by Skype to chat. The editorial relationship is a very close one. It is built on trust. In a conversation, we can both decide whether this relationship is right for us. It is your chance to ask me all your questions about process and hoped-for results.

If we agree to work together, then we develop a process that makes sense for you, taking into account my schedule and yours. Some writers find the discipline of deadlines bracing. Others like to work away on the manuscript and use my services to go over large chunks. I am happy to work with a writer’s own methodology.

Most of the work is done digitally. Mailing manuscripts is time-consuming and costly, but if you prefer to work on paper, I am happy to do that, too. You will send me pages at intervals that suit you. I encourage writers to send me questions, if there are particular points that are worrying. I edit the manuscript in Track Changes, making notes on the manuscript. Before we begin, we have a conversation about editing so that you understand the spirit in which these comments are made. My job is to show you where the problems are and how they might be addressed. Your job is to make the changes that are right for you and for the book.

I try to get the manuscript back to you within a week. Once the writer receives the comments and goes through them, we often have a conversation. All email and phone/Skype conversations have to be scheduled in advance.

After receiving the comments, the writer works on a new draft. How many times we go through the manuscript depends on my time and yours. The fee structure below is flexible enough to accommodate intensive work over a few months or long ongoing relationships.

What it will cost

$300 for the first 100 pages
$2 per page thereafter

$300 reading fee
OR
$150 discount on the manuscript evaluation fee
$50 per hour editing/consultation fee

I ask for an initial deposit of $500. I keep a timesheet as I work and deduct $50/hr from the deposit. I report the finances periodically, so you know how much is left on the meter. When the deposit is close to being used up, if you want to keep on working with me, you send another deposit.

Payments can be by cheque, Paypal, or email bank transfer. I provide invoices for your records.

If at any time a writer is unhappy with the relationship, we can stop and I’ll refund the unused portion of the money. This has never happened, though it is always a possibility.

Note: For Canadian writers, I am obliged to charge HST of 13%. This is tax-deductible as a professional writer’s business expense.

How we can get started

If you are interested in working with me, please write to me at info@merilynsimonds.com.

If, after we talk and I review your manuscript, we decide to work together, we’ll work out a schedule that suits us both, I’ll send you a letter of agreement, you’ll send me a cheque, then we’ll get started.

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.   Workshops   .

I often lead workshops at festivals in Canada and Mexico. Check here for past and future topics.

List of Workshops

.   2017   .

February 18-20, 2017
Playing in the Sandbox of the Sentence: Grammar for Writers
Escape from the Slavery of WORD
: Introduction to Scrivener Software for Serious Writers
San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
sanmiguelwritersconference.org

.   2016   .

June 2-5, 2016
Excuse me, Your Research is Showing
Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story
Wingham, Ontario
alicemunrofestival.ca

July 18-28, 2016
Daredevil Draft Emerging Writers Workshop
Sage Hill Writing Experience
sagehillwriting.ca

.   2015   .

February 11-12, 2015
Writing by Ear
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
sanmiguelwritersconference.org

June 5-7, 2015
“Writing VERY short (Flash Fiction)”
Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story
Wingham, Ontario
alicemunrofestival.ca

July 20-30, 2015
Daredevil Draft Emerging Writers Workshop
Sage Hill Writing Experience
sagehillwriting.ca

October 16-18, 2015
How to Write & Pitch the Killer Proposal
Writing by Ear: Developing Voice
Writing What You Know: Cruising the Fact-Fiction Continuum
Whistler Readers & Writers Festival
Whistler, BC
whistlerwritersfest.com

.   2014   .

July 21-31, 2014
Daredevil Draft Emerging Writers Workshop
Sage Hill Writing Experience
sagehillwriting.ca

September 27-28, 2014
Writing a Killer Book Proposal
Kingston WritersFest
Kingston, ON
kingstonwritersfest.ca

Saturday, October 18, 2014
Writing the Past–Yours & the World’s
StoryFest
Hudson, Quebec
greenwood-centre-hudson.org/storyfest.html

.   2012   .

April 14-22, 2012
Writing With Style: Creative Nonfiction Banff Centre for the Arts Banff, Alberta

October 27, 2012
Grammar for Writers: All-day Workshop Canadian Authors Association Edmonton, Alberta

October 29-31, 2012
Visiting Fellow University of Saskatchewan, Creative Writing Dept. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

November 3, 2012
Workshop: Writing from Life Wild Writers Festival Waterloo, ON

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SEE ALSO:

    Week-long Book Coach Retreat in Mexico
    What I can offer you
    Writers on Working with Merilyn