My long experience as a writer, teacher, and editor makes me well-suited to be a mentor and coach to other writers. In more than 40 years as a full-time writer and the main support of my family, I have written in multiple genres and for multiple publishers, as well as publishing my own work and the work of other authors. I have dealt with burnout, procrastination, perfectionism, self-doubt, writer’s block, and the host of other issues which can keep writers from putting words on paper and successfully finishing a project.
My strengths include:
• Quickly grasping the writer’s intent, understanding the story goals and pitfalls, and zeroing in on a strategy to resolve issues.
• Focusing on the writer’s story and how to make it better (rather than suggesting moves which change the story entirely), setting aside any personal feelings about the story content, approach, or specific genre.
• Seeing the bones of the story, then brainstorming and assisting with plotting, conflict, and character development to move the project forward.
• Offering feedback which is honest, helpful, specific, and on-target, pointing out strengths as well as weaknesses.
• Actively listening and helping to diagnose which issues are most troublesome for the writer at any particular time.
• Helping the writer to improve technical command in such things as showing not telling, point of view, selecting and using detail, writing natural dialogue, writing gender-believable but not stereotypical characters, and finding the writer’s individual voice.
• Assisting the writer to develop tools which will move him or her toward independence, with the goal that by the end of the mentoring period the writer will be confident and able to move forward on his or her own.
One-on-one coaching allows an intensive focus on the individual writer as he or she writes a specific story. Writers who are still exploring which story they want to write may benefit more from my classes for beginning romance writers, offered through Gotham Writers Workshop. Writers who have a completed or nearly-completed manuscript may benefit more from my editing service, A Word’s Worth, which offers evaluation and critique of manuscripts, manuscripts-in-progress, query letters, synopses, etc.
The coaching packages I offer are flexible and the following options are only a selection of what’s available. Each coaching relationship starts with a free consultation via Zoom in which we will discuss the writer’s project and specific concerns. We will set goals, clarify expectations, develop a plan including a time frame, and decide whether we are a good personality mix.
1 – Writing Your Book
Write your book under the guidance of a coach/mentor who will provide active listening, assistance with plot and character development, inspiration, regular feedback about your writing project, and craft advice.
Twelve sessions (three months) / $1,500
• Weekly half-hour Zoom calls to discuss progress, brainstorm the project, offer feedback, ask / answer questions, and discuss any reading and writing assignments.
• Twice-monthly assessment of work in progress, including review of a scene or segment (up to 3,000 words) with verbal feedback shared in a subsequent scheduled call.
• Assignments and supplemental materials as appropriate to the work and the client (may be writing exercises, worksheets, activities, or reading examples from published work, to be discussed in a subsequent regularly-scheduled call).
• The writer will advance in technical and professional skills while making forward progress in producing a finished project. Though no guarantee can be made of a finished project by the end of the mentoring period, the writer will have progressed toward The End and will have a solid plan for completing the project as well as the tools necessary to continue on his own.
Intended for the writer with a fiction project under way but who needs assistance to move forward and / or finish.
2 – Turning Your Idea into a Book
Get a solid start on your book with the guidance of a mentor who will provide assistance with choosing the appropriate genre, developing the plot and conflict, creating and delineating characters, structuring the story, and building a plan for writing the project.
Four sessions / $500
• Weekly half-hour Zoom calls to discuss the project, brainstorm, offer feedback, ask / answer questions, and discuss any reading and writing assignments.
• Two assessments of work in progress, including review of a scene or segment (up to 3,000 words each time) with verbal feedback shared in a subsequent scheduled call.
• Assignments and supplemental materials as appropriate to the work and the client (may be writing exercises, worksheets, activities, or reading examples from published work), to be discussed in a subsequent regularly-scheduled call).
• The writer will have a solid plot structure, will know where the story starts and ends, will have characters developed, and will have the necessary tools to continue writing on his own.
Intended for the writer with an idea for a fiction project, needing assistance in developing and brainstorming the plot, building characters, and anticipating roadblocks.
3 – Over the Editor’s Shoulder
Every writer needs an editor. When a writer reads his own work, he relives what he was feeling and seeing and thinking as he wrote it – and he may not realize that the reader is getting a very different impression. What seems obvious to the writer isn’t always clear to the reader.
Though editing by another person is always a good idea, there are many things the writer can fix for himself. With copy-editing and line-editing shortcomings out of the way, a developmental editor can focus on the big picture – which makes a better story and a smaller editing bill.
One session, 90 to 120 minutes average: $500
(can be expanded to a small group, with an additional fee of $100 per person)
• The writer will watch and participate in real time, via screen-sharing on Zoom or a similar platform, as I work through a chapter or section of the client’s own work (generally 3,000 to 5,000 words).
• I will perform a line edit (checking story structure paragraph by paragraph, including verb tenses, point of view, continuity and clarity) and a copy edit (checking grammar, sentence structure, dialogue mechanics, punctuation, and style).
• I will use the screen-sharing and Track Changes options so the writer can interact in real time as I show each action, talk through the reasons for the actions, and ask questions intended to improve and clarify the narrative.
• I will answer the writer’s questions about editing norms and style.
• I will identify the common or repeated mistakes specific to this writer, creating a watch-list for the future.
• The edited manuscript will be returned to the client with Track Changes and comments enabled, for future reference.
• The writer will learn how to improve his own writing by seeing in real time the changes made by a professional editor, understanding the reasons for the changes and why each change improves the quality of the narrative. The writer will have an improved ability to write with clarity, correctness, and power, and be better able to pre-edit his own work.
Intended for the writer who has a first draft completed or in progress and wishes to improve his or her command of technical issues.
4 – Self-Publishing Your e-Book
The new world of independent publishing drops a great deal of work onto the shoulders of the author. Setting up accounts, formatting manuscripts, choosing cover art, assembling and uploading the package — every step along the way involves choices, options, and often loads of frustration. Turn your finished and edited manuscript into a self-published e-book and print-on-demand paperback, with the assistance of an experienced publisher — one step at a time.
Six to eight sessions / $750 to $1000
• Weekly discussions / lessons via Zoom or similar platform. Each call will include hands-on assistance with one or more stages of publishing, from setting up accounts at book distributors to formatting a manuscript to choosing cover art to writing blurbs to uploading materials and setting prices.
• Calls can be recorded for the client’s future reference.
• Step-by-step instruction in real time, with the client actually taking each step in the process under the immediate supervision and guidance of an experienced publisher.
• In each session, the client will gain hands-on experience in one or more specific steps in the process of creating an e-book or POD book.
• Between sessions, the client will be able to apply the experience independently to move the publishing process forward.
• By the end of the sessions, the client will have a published book and / or will have the tools to complete the self-publishing process at a later date.
Intended for the writer who wishes to self-publish and has a finished, polished, edited manuscript ready for publishing.
How do we start?
Contact me through my website at leighmichaels.com. We will set up a time for a Zoom conference (at no charge) to discuss your project, your needs, and your specific concerns. If both of us decide that the relationship can be a productive one, we will set goals, including time frame and cost.
Do you work only with romance writers?
I work mostly with authors of fiction, and because of my writing experience I often am most helpful to writers of romantic fiction, whether they’re writing romance novels or love stories that cross into other genres.
Feel free to consult me about other projects. If I can’t help, I may know someone who can.
What does it cost?
Rates listed are introductory and not guaranteed. In our initial conversation we will discuss the fees for your specific needs.
Why no packages lasting longer than three months?
My goal is to give you the necessary tools so you can continue on your own. And there’s a point where fresh eyes can be more helpful to you.
What if your packages don’t sound quite right for me?
Tell me what you need, and let’s talk about it. The greatest thing about working one-on-one is that it’s very flexible.
What if I need to take a break?
If we agree that a break would be beneficial, or if life circumstances change, sessions can be briefly paused or a session can be postponed. Keep in mind, however, that consistency is important in establishing work habits and moving toward success. If you are unable to commit to a regular meeting schedule, then perhaps this isn’t the right time for you to seek a writing coach, or perhaps I’m not the right coach for you.
How long have you been doing this?
Offering mentoring on a formal basis is a new service, but I have been mentoring writers since shortly after I sold my own first book. In that time, at least a hundred of my students and / or editing clients have gone on to successful careers in publishing.
How many clients do you have?
Since mentoring is time-intensive and demanding, I work with no more than three clients at any given time.
Why should I try mentoring rather than classes or editing services?
One-on-one mentoring is a much more intense experience than a class; you will be working hand in hand with the mentor as you write. If you’re still exploring ideas or thinking about your story, a class may be more beneficial. If you’ve written the entire project, an editing service may be more beneficial.