Q&A with Developmental Editor, Katie McCoach
Today I'd like to welcome Katie McCoach to the blog! Katie is a developmental editor at KM Editorial, LLC, where she works with authors at all levels. Her motto is, “Let’s create your best story!” Her specialties are romance, young adult, new adult, sci-fi, fantasy, and memoir. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers,, and Los Angeles Romance Writers. She’s a featured editor for Revise & Resub (#RevPit contest) and #ShoreIndie contest (2017). Katie was also a participating editor in Pitch to Publication (2015, 2016), and has judged the 2016 & 2015 Golden Hearts Awards and 2014 Stiletto Contest. She is based in Los Angeles.
Hi, Katie, and welcome! Can you tell us what drew you to a career in editing?
Thank you for having me! It’s always fun to talk about my little corner of the world. When I was young, I always loved reading and writing. One creative writing class led to another, and soon I was studying fiction writing in college. I had not expected to fall in love with the critiquing process as much as I did. I found immense pride and pleasure in helping other writers develop their stories and writing. Once I made the decision to start my own editing business, I knew I had found my forever career.
What is developmental editing, and what does your work entail?
Developmental editing, in the most basic of definitions, is editing that enhances your story. I tell writers, “My goal is to help you create your best story.” I focus on the content; characters, plot, pacing, writing, and more. When I work with an author, I immerse myself in their story, I evaluate how to bring out their voice, and I help them with how to tell the story they want to tell in the strongest way possible.
"The great thing about being aware of areas in a manuscript that are in need of improvement is that improvement is possible." Katie McCoach
What are some of the most common weaknesses you see in manuscripts?
If there was one thing I could tell everyone to go look for in their manuscript right now, is any instance they use “telling” rather than “showing”. Show Don’t Tell is one of those fantastic writing rules that can enhance any writers’ work when applied. If the word “felt” appears, you are almost always telling. “I felt scared.” Do you—the reader—feel anything after reading this line? But, consider the line, “Goosebumps spread across my skin.” Which one evokes more emotion? See how the second statement shows us what the character is feeling without explicitly telling us at all?
Another common thing I see is that writers will sometimes show something, but then tell us what happened. For example, they might write, “Goosebumps spread across my skin out of fear.” With context, the reader should be able to know the goosebumps are from fear. If you feel like you need to explain something that’s being shown, then look back at the selection and determine what’s missing.
The great thing about being aware of areas in a manuscript that are in need of improvement is that improvement is possible.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love seeing writers develop their stories and their voices. And not just that, but it’s so much fun when a writer comes to me and tells me how excited they are to dive into their revisions and future books to create an even stronger story.
What is your best piece of editorial advice?
I have two: read, and critique. Reading is so important, because it’s where writers can learn what works and what doesn’t. I encourage writers to analyze a book after reading. What did you like about it? Were you invested? Can you pinpoint why? Understanding these things will help a writer grow and tell a compelling story. On a similar note, this is also why I think providing constructive criticism for others is important too. As you provide critiques and advice to others, you’ll be surprised how much you’ll realize what’s not working in your own work by discussing what does or doesn’t work in others’.
You’ve been a featured editor in Pitch to Publication, and you’re about to take part in #RevPit (which starts accepting submissions on April 7th!). What do you love about working on Twitter contests and how do they benefit authors?
I love the sense of community these contests bring about. It’s wonderful seeing editors and writers and the like engage and support each other. RevPit and Pitch to Publication are very much editing-focused contests, and one thing I love about this is how it opens up writers to something they may not have fully been aware of or understood before. And we—the editors involved—try to make sure everyone who participates/submits to these contests to feel as though they benefited in some way, even if they didn’t end up as the final chosen winner(s).
What tips do you have for writers who are new to receiving (or giving) critiques?
Tips for receiving critiques:
Allow time for the critique to soak in.
Do not immediately jump into defense.
Don’t feel like you have to agree with every criticism. You know your story better than anyone. But if you don’t agree with something, at least take time to consider why that note was made, and ask for clarification if needed. Then make a decision that’s right for your story.
If you receive the same overwhelming piece of criticism, don’t ignore it. If 8 out of 10 people in your critique group agree on the same thing, listen to them.
Tips for giving critiques:
Be constructive, kind, helpful. Be encouraging. Do not tear down another writer.
Be specific. For example, if you don’t like a character, give examples as to why.
Share what does AND doesn’t work, in your opinion. Every writer has strengths and weaknesses—the more a writer knows about their strengths, the more they can use that to their advantage.
Know when to “pass”. Don’t share notes if it will be more hurtful than helpful.
Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to share some truly valuable advice on editing, critiquing, and writing! For lots more, be sure to follow her on Facebook at KM Editiorial LLC, on Twitter at @katiemccoach, and check out Katie's website for writing resources and editorial services at: katiemccoach.com.
. . . and for more on #RevPit:
#RevPit is an intense month-long editor/author match-up with the aim of presenting agent-ready manuscripts. Submissions will be accepted starting April 7th. For more information, and how to apply, see full guidelines online at: www.reviseresub.com.
If you're interested in #RevPit, or if you have editing questions for Katie, she will be participating in TWO #AskEditor sessions this week on Twitter! For the full schedule of those chats, click here.