Do You Need a Writing Coach or An Editor?

Saturday, June 10, 2017
Since I happen to do both writing coaching and editing, I often get requests for either one of these services. Currently, I have one of the most fun coaching clients--she wants motivation to write and plot her book, and she wants me to brainstorm story elements with her. She definitely doesn't need editing right now--she's in the drafting stages. I had another client recently who wrote a very interesting ghost story, and she inquired about editing. I asked for some sample pages and let her know that I thought she was ready for a content edit, but not a full edit with proofreading yet because she was probably going to have some revisions.

How do you know if you need a writing coach or an editor (and what kind of editing)? If you don't have anyone who can help you decide or you haven't really thought about it, then here are some things to consider before you spend any money on services:

1. Have you finished a manuscript and which draft stage are you in?
If you've finished a manuscript, then you need an editor. A good editor will let you know what type of editing you need. For example, if you have a critique group that has already helped you revise your drafts, then you probably need a good proofreading. If you wrote this manuscript and no one else has ever read it, then you need a content edit, where the editor will help you with characterization, plotting, setting, and so on. 

The only time you might need a writing coach when you have finished a manuscript is when you're submitting to editors or agents and you need help, advice, and motivation with this.

2. Are you looking for someone to help you polish a manuscript or motivate you to write?
In other words, ask yourself WHY you reached out to a professional to help you with this project. If it's because you need help with punctuation and grammar, then you need a proofreader. If it's because you can't finish the thing, then you might need a few writing coach sessions to figure out why and to give you some deadlines to meet. 

3. Do you want someone to hold you accountable to deadlines?
This is what a writing coach can do. Many writers take my WOW! workshop class "Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach" because they like having to turn in 4500 words each week. It makes them work on their novel and prioritize their writing because they spent money on it, and someone is reading and discussing it. 

4. Do you need to brainstorm your plot because you are feeling stuck or unmotivated?
A rule of thumb is this: an editor is generally working with a finished manuscript or at least close to finished. A writing coach can help you at any stage, depending on your goals. A writing coach, like a life coach, is there to motivate you and discuss plot and career with you. (A writing coach can also help with branding and marketing.) An editor is there to help you with your writing and to make your finished manuscript the best it can be whether you are planning to traditionally publish or self-publish. 

If you have another situation you are in and wondering about, let us know in the comments below, and we will try to help you decide which type of services you need. OR let us know how you have previously worked with a writing coach or editor. 

Margo L. Dill is an editor, writing coach and author in St. Louis, MO. She is currently having a sale on her editing and writing coach services until the end of June. To check out these details, please click here and look at the white box at the end of the post. Or to sign up for her July writing coach class, please go to WOW's classroom  here. Her website is

Pencil photo above by Oteo on 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks for the guidelines about editors and writing coaches.

I hope that soon I will have the need for one of these services. ;)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Yes! This is very helpful. I love working with editors, especially Margo and Chelsey at WOW, and I'm so spoiled that I feel I can't write a piece without an editor. And now I know what a writing coach does...brainstorm ideas? plot books? that rocks...I will definitely be using a coach in the future!

Margo Dill said...

Thanks, ladies. :) Best of luck to you with your writing projects this year.

Renee Roberson said...

This is a great explanation of the difference between the types of editing. I had a friend write a YA manuscript a few years ago and didn't know this. She hired a family friend as her editor, who spent more than a year doing line edits on the first draft of the manuscript (my friend would complete them and then resubmit them on a weekly basis). A few of us had to do an intervention and tell us she really needed a developmental editor first, and that she was spending too much money on the line edits when it wasn't time for them yet!

Mary Horner said...

Great advice, Margo. I need both!

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