Jhohadli Writing Project

As I write this, I’ve wrapped the last of three (technically four) editing projects this week and prepping the next installment of the JWP Creative Writing Workshop series. Which is to say, two things:

1, There is still time to register for the JWP CWWS – themed Back to Basics and starting this Saturday, it will look at basic language and literary terms, and story structure and technique. The goal is, as always, to get you writing and to help you grow in the practice and use of craft to improve your writing. Remember that you can participate remotely from anywhere and, if in Antigua, remotely or in person. To register or for information, contact me at jhohadli at gmail dot com

For more on Jhohadli Writing Project, go here.
For more on Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series, go here.

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2, I am available for work and the work I do includes writing (for all types of projects and clientele), editing, training (coaching and through workshops) – the latter from creative writing to written communication. This past week I, also, received word that a piece I had been invited to submit for a publication out of Norway has been accepted as is. This publication found me through my platform (so, thanks, platform for working for me). Meanwhile, I continue to work. Hit me up at jhohadli at gmail dot com

For more on my services, go here.

 

…And now back to your regularly scheduled programme.

If you’re here for the first time, my name is Joanne C. Hillhouse. I’ve authored some books – I hope you’ll check them out (and if you already have, I encourage you to post a reader review to Amazon or Goodreads, or even here); and I offer freelance services – look me up if you need any of the listed services. Thanks!

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Mentoring and Editing: a Reflection

Late last year, I signed on to mentor one of the finalists from the Africa leg of the CODE sponsored Burt Award. CODE is a non-profit based in Canada; the Burt Award is the programme it runs – in Canada, the Caribbean, and Africa. You can read about CODE and the Burt Award generally here and go to my other blog to read this post I did about the Caribbean leg of the Burt Award.

This post though is about my recent mentoring/editing role. It involved critiquing the manuscript and providing tips to the writer for improvement of said manuscript, guiding and nurturing the writer through the process within a specific window of time.

It was an interesting experience. Not my first time mentoring or editing or even working with someone in another country or from a different culture. But it was new in some ways and there was doubt (as good a sign as any that this is a growth opportunity and to be embraced).

In any new relationship, there’s a period of feeling each other out and establishing expectations. Then it was time to read the manuscript. I’m expected to be the script doctor – evaluating its health, and diagnosing and offering prescriptions for any issues (story issues, plot issues, structural issues, character issues, tonal issues etc.). Sometimes, heavy cutting is required; sometimes something less intrusive will do. It’s never easy but it’s necessary work. Also time consuming work – people don’t have a full appreciation of this when they balk at editor fees – and it will get tedious at some point (the degree depending on the manuscript), and your eyes will get tired.

The mentoring and coaching aspect, meanwhile, require an evaluation of the writer’s strengths and weaknesses, a sense how the writer works, and the ability to talk to the writer (or make notations on to the manuscript) clearly (but not without sensitivity). Thankfully, this writer was incredibly proactive, responsive, and motivated. Plus, they were very open to the process, which is a challenge for us sometimes as writers.

Given the target demographic, I also had to project myself in to the mindset of the teen reader and how they might respond to this work. When writing creatively in a particular genre and for a particular age group, a sense of audience will factor in at some stage of the revision and/or editing process (maybe even the writing process for some – though I favour keeping the audience out of the initial round/s of writing a creative piece and just letting characters and story breathe). My first beta reader on my own CODE/Burt book Musical Youth – which was 1st runner up for the Caribbean prize in 2014 – was an actual teen and getting her feedback was less about craft and other writerly things, and more about her response to the story and its authentic or false-feeling notes. I actually sought this feedback earlier than I normally would (i.e. after a single draft) because I was trying to hit the competition submission deadline and wanted to see how a teen would respond to what I’d written.

My assigned mentee was obviously much later in the process and there was considerable work to be done on the script itself, yes, but also on the script relative to its target readership. We discussed this and I got the sense that they understood what I was saying and actually learned something from the experience. I saw the evidence of this in the changes they made on the turnaround (which was surprisingly quick, and yet thorough and on point by the way). Which is what you want.

Here’s what the author said in his evaluation: “The feedback [Joanne C. Hillhouse gave me] was useful because it helped me to be aware of not being wordy but writing with a purpose leading to the climax. Moreover, it helped me to realize that I have to constantly think about the reader and ask myself if what I have written was clear enough to the targeted reader.”

Read this and other performance reviews.
Read more about my services.
Read about my coaching (and mentoring) services.
Read more about my books.

Query Letters

I’ve only ever written query letters* for myself…until now. A recent client wanted me to not only edit her manuscript but assist with her query letter. This person had been a do-it-your-self-er in the past so she knew publishing, but knew enough to know that she needed help jumping the hoops and hurdles of traditional publishing. I’ve jumped those hoops and hurdles, and have the knee and palm scrapes to prove it.

Drafting the query letter was easy (relative to drafting my own) because I not only genuinely liked the book but could see where it could fit in the marketplace, and that’s what you want to communicate in the query letter – the story and its hook (or hook-ability).

This freelancing journey continues to give me opportunities to transfer skills learned in one area of my life to other areas. Who knew all those hours, days, weeks, months, and years of research and practice with shopping my own books would prove useful in this other side of my writing life – the one where I provide editing services to others, including other writers? As with so much else, I continue to learn as I do, and look for the opportunities.

Fingers crossed re the sale of my recent client’s book. But I’m confident that even if it doesn’t – because there are all kinds of reasons, having nothin to do with the quality of the book itself, why that could happen – and the author decides to try the self-publishing route again, I hope the process of trying to pitch and sell it will bring clarity to positioning it in the marketplace.

As for me, I’ll be adding drafting and editing query letters to the services I provide because, thanks to this job, now I do.

For more on my writing, editing, and other services, go here.ad re books and professional services

*”A query letter is a way to introduce yourself and your work to a literary agent or editor. It is a letter you send to convince agents or editors that you have a project that not only will interest them but also make them money. If they like your query, they will ask to see your work. Depending on the editor or agent, this entails seeing a book proposal from a nonfiction writer. If you’re a fiction writer, be prepared to send a full manuscript or a few chapters of your novel.” (Writers’ Digest)