As someone who works with artists across multiple disciplines, I support the art and craft of writing. To date, I’ve specialized in editing books, and within that field, I specialize in developmental (dev) editing, copy editing, and proofreading.
Developmental editing focuses on the “big picture” parts of your book such as the overall style and structure, character development, and plot. Does it all make sense and tie together? Are there gaps, or excesses, in these areas? This high-level pass attempts to strengthen your work by asking questions about your intention, and providing suggestions for adapting the tone, connecting the dots, and streamlining or adding information. I also make at least some line edits to demonstrate how to put a suggestion into action.
Copy editing tries to address any gaps between the author’s intention and the reader’s understanding. My philosophy is to put myself in the reader’s shoes and ensure that your book is the best, most readable version it can possibly be. I read with an eye toward addressing issues that might distract a reader. My style of copy editing often overlaps with some areas of dev editing, especially if I note something that may create confusion for a reader. Line by line, I try to improve the clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness of your book through suggestions about grammar, voice, word choice, and the like. I consider some aspects of proofreading to be part of my job as a copy editor. I actively look out for spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization – and I can spot a typo a mile away.
Proofreading drills down into all the nitty-gritty details of your finished manuscript, in order to scrub every last error from your book. This stage doesn’t involve revisions or suggestions. I recommend that authors engage a proofreader for two main reasons. First, you’ve worked too hard on your book to have a reader become distracted by a typo! Second, issues raised by the copy edit often lead the author to adjust parts of the book, or include entirely new passages. A proofread will give a pair of professional eyes on this new writing.
Formatting a book for publication is another animal entirely. Neither the editing nor proofreading process touches directly on this, since an agent or publisher will let you know about their specific requirements, after they’ve accepted your work. There is no universal formatting requirement for publication.
As an editor, I will provide the edited manuscript back to you (with notes, comments, mark-up), as well as a letter that organizes and explains some of the notes and edits in more detail. I also offer a follow-up phone call, after you’ve had time to digest the suggestions, for any questions that have arisen.
Rates vary, depending on the length of your manuscript, the genre of your work, and if you have a need for a tight turnaround.
If you think we’d be a good fit, please contact me so that we can discuss your project: firstname.lastname@example.org
“As I was finishing my first novel, I knew that editing was going to be a necessary and vital step. And that’s about it. I didn’t know anything else about how the process worked or how a person could professionally gauge my work and still feel the deep connection I had with the story and its characters. But Maura did it. From the beginning, she felt more like a collaborator than an editor. Her notes and suggestions were invaluable. I took almost every single one, and why wouldn’t I? They made my book so much better! Maura has a knack for offering a writer just the right amount of compliments, which create the courage to address her criticisms. She gets subtle humor, she loves badass women (characters), and I suspect she liked my bad guys more than the good guys. From grammar and word usage to story arc and character development, Maura helped me make a book I could be proud of.”
Mark A. Henry
Author of Lacking Evidence to the Contrary: A Lowbrow Novel of Questionable Necessity
“Maura copy-edited our historical romance novel Land Beyond the Horizon. Editing a historical novel is especially difficult because you have to catch the spirit of a former era. Maura did this with great care and sensitivity. The result is a very charming read that is true to the time (late 18th-century) and at the same time makes the text highly understandable for the reader. She also kept an eye on logical mistakes and detected many mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation. She discussed her work with us via email at any time. Very valuable was her very detailed editorial letter which helped us to understand the whole process of copy-editing. We learnt much for future projects through working with her.
Our work with Maura was an absolutely positive experience. We met a very warm and able person who went to any length polishing our manuscript.”
Horst and Julia Drosten, who write together using the pseudonym Julia Drosten
Authors of Land Beyond the Horizon
“Maura’s copyediting exceeded my expectations. Her attention to detail and gentle honesty pushed me to become a better writer. She made comments throughout the manuscript and her insightful suggestions brought attention to details that I had never thought of before. She was very responsive and took the time to ensure my manuscript reached its full potential. I highly recommend Maura and will not hesitate to hire her again.”
Author of Forever Sunday: A Mother-Daughter Memoir
“Maura was delightful to work with and made a significant difference to my writing. She carefully outlined her role as copyeditor, so I knew exactly what to expect. Maura applied her relevant experiences and perspectives along with her expert edits to my work. I felt that she brought a comprehensive approach to my manuscript and made it 100% more readable by eliminating distractions and so many extra words!
Her six pages of comments were detailed and presented along with a rationale which made it easy for me to decide how to incorporate them. Along with those, she entered track changes to my manuscript. At every step, she emphasized that she was making suggestions and not decisions. Along with her written comments, Maura offered to have a phone call to discuss any questions I might have.
Two months after she sent her initial report, I was surprised to receive an email from Maura asking if I had any lingering questions. Her timing was perfect because I had just completed the changes and was about to start querying agents. I did have a few lingering questions, and she took the time to review my first chapter and help me once again.
I highly recommend working with Maura. Her eye for clarity and consistency is excellent, and she is such a pleasure to work with.”
Author of Fragile Courage
“Writing a book is a challenging process under the best of circumstances. It involves an incredible amount of drafting, researching, and editing … and that’s only the beginning. Being a first time author, I thought that I could manage all of this for myself. However, it didn’t take me long after receiving the feedback from early beta readers to realize that I needed help. I hired a developmental editor, who at the end of the process, said that my work would benefit from copyediting and she recommended Maura McGurk for the job. This was a lucky break for me. Maura was a pleasure to work with and her insight proved invaluable.
She encouraged me with her thoughtful comments about my writing style and content, noting the strengths but also indicating, in a very kind and respectful manner, many areas for improvement. She helped me to see that a number of the anecdotes, instead of adding depth to the story, actually took the reader away from the heart of it. She flagged sections and phrases that could be written in a more sensitive manner and also indicated areas needing more description. Additionally, she skillfully adjusted grammar and punctuation to create a better overall flow.
I am very grateful for Maura’s expertise and collaborative spirit. The outcome of our work together is a book that will be much more appealing to my readers.”
Author of Always Pass Uphill of a Yak: And Other Lessons from Nepal