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Jim Newcomer, Ph.D.

You Have an Important Story to Tell

Editorial guidance and advice from first draft to publication-ready

Developmental & Line Editing – and Coaching

Support for writers.

   I work with beginners and veterans. All want to gain and hold  readers’ interest, present their material in the right order, make it understandable, and ensure that their story is moving, compelling, believable, funny, or persuasive – or all of these plus engaging.

   Oh, and did I mention complete, coherent, and significant?

   (I also work on shorter copy ranging from newsletters to academic reports to website copy.)

    If you want your writing to be worth reading and publishable, I invite you to work with me, a professional  who is supportive and critical at the same time, who encourages you, who asks questions till he fully understands your purpose, who demands your best writing, who knows how to cut unneeded words, who suggests aspects that may be missing, and who helps you find your true voice

    If you look at my Portfolio page, you’ll see that I have a range of interests and experience. In addition to memoirs, these are:

        • Non-fiction, focused on sustainability and environmental issues, politics, and history (My Ph.D. is in Political Science.)
        • Literary and Historical Fiction
        • Academic – Social Sciences (with experience editing texts by Chinese scholars in English)

   I also work in the fields of the practical –  newsletters that need editing, web copy that isn’t quite right – yet – and reports that you want to organize so that recipients can read and understand them easily. 

   You know what you want to say, but you just can’t or haven’t the time to organize your material and get the writing perfect. 

   You are also aware that the public does not give a rip that you were short of time.  I can help with that too.

As a bonus here are some Choice Quotations from Mary Karr’s great book, The Art of Memoir. She vividly illustrates the power of voice.


    “Asking me how to write a memoir is a little like saying, ‘I really want to have sex, where do I start?’ What one person fantasizes about would ruin the romance for another. It depends on how you’re constructed inside and out, hormone levels, psychology. Or it’s like saying, ‘I want a makeover, how should I look?’ A Goth girl’s not inclined to lime-green Fair Isle sweaters, and a preppy scorns black lipstick.”


Here’s another, same book:


    “It’s harder [than telling stories in person] to translate lived experience onto a page. A story told poorly is life made small by words. The key details are missing, and the sentences might have been spoken by anybody. We need a special verbal device to unpack all that’s hidden in the writer’s heart so we can freshly relive it: a voice.


    “Unfortunately, nobody tells a writer how hard cobbling together a voice is. Look under ‘voice’ in a writing textbook, and they talk about things that seem mechanical – tone, diction, syntax. . . . For me psyche equals voice, so your own psyche – how you think and see and wonder and scudge and suffer – also determines such factors as pacing and what you write about when. Since all such literary decisions for a memoirist are offshoots of character, I often find that any bafflement I face on the page about these factors is instantly answered once I find the right voice.”



What Writers I Have Worked With Say:

Linda Viviane, author of No More Daughters (still in progress)
   "I began writing my novel, which spans 5 generations, over 10 years ago. I did my own editing, going back over what I’d written often, making slow forward progress. I didn’t show it to even close friends, for fear of harsh criticism. At last, I realized that to finish it I needed a skilled editor. On a friend’s recommendation, I contacted Jim Newcomer with the hope he’d not only help me see my book to completion but be gentle with my still-forming creation. I have been working with Jim for a year and am now completing my book’s last section. Jim has advanced my writing every day with encouragement, direction, and terrific editing suggestions. He understands the story I am telling and why it is important for me to tell it. I recommend without hesitation Jim Newcomer, an excellent editor, knowledgeable resource, and sincere advocate for a writer in any genre."
Rabbi Rob Abramovitz, author of A Rabbi's View of the Gospels
"Dr. Newcomer is the best editor I've ever worked with, and I've known dozens. He is incisive and kind at the same time. Most editors can find grammatical and flow issues. What sets Jim apart is that he finds the stumbling blocks that limit a reader's enjoyment and/or understanding. His editing vastly improved my latest work and made it considerably more salable."
Krista Puttler, author of Surgeon in Progress
"Jim Newcomer is a passionate, meticulous editor. Without his precise reading and many quiet encouragements my memoir would never have reached its full potential."
R.. Paul Moore, VVA Petitioner
It feels like I just went through 7 weeks of class 5 white water rafting! Thanks for being a superb guide as the drop and edges and near collisions with rock faces passed us by! I feel like you had a steady hand on the right rear corner of the raft. . . smiled at my lunges sometimes, cracked up at my final, and mistaken soar out of the raft in the last stages… and perked me up after an absurd underwater ending. (No resolution, that is!!) You’re a good, compassionate, patient man. What a gift! Paul


Developmental Editing

I read Your Draft for the big. structural issues, raising questions that include, first of all, is it significant; how does it matter? Do you make your reader care?

   Then: Is it coherent? What Makes it Work (or Not)? 

   Character and story arcs – are they clear and traceable?

   Take it scene by scene – where does the narrative slow down or lose its way? How could you strengthen it (or rescue it)?



Line Editing


Are your chapters and scenesplaced in the right order?

   Your paragraphs and sentences – are thet clear and readable, and do they make sense?

   When Richard Simon was an editor at Simon and Schuster, they say he gave every staff member a  bronze paperweight that read:




   This is when the first red pencil work begins.


Copy editing


 This is the stage that gets us down to honing individual sentences and paragraphs, the kind of editing we usually associate with the red pencil and the squiggles between lines.


   While I do not claim to be a copyeditor, I can seldom restrain my urges to fix sentences and catch spelling and grammar errors as I go.


It’s the traffic cop in me. I won’t apologize, becaus my persnickety reading helps you improve your writing.



Some of my clients have relied on me to support them along the path, mostly for free, with ongoing conversations. I ask questions, dig for information, and suggest things that keep their projects alive and moving ahead.

  This has been for me the most rewarding work, but it seldom starts out as a coaching engagement. Usually as trust grows, it just turns into that in the give and take of working together on a long and significant book. Isn’t that what you want to write?

My Promises to You, the Writer

    I promise quick responses and a close, supportive relationship. 

    When you write a memoir, especially, editor and writer need to build mutual trust. You are, after all, revealing deep issues, the fundamental values of your life, The editor must respect your process as well as you. I promise that respect, and I also promise an unwavering standard of quality that will guide you to great writing.

    I have an idol, a great editor, the late Robert Gottlieb, and in Avid Reader, his autobiography, he set out the rules he followed, which I emulate. He wrote what he considered the basics of editing:

    • ‘Get back to your writers right away.’
    • ‘It’s the writer’s book, not yours.’
    • ‘Try to help make the book a better version of what it is, not into something that it isn’t.’
    • ‘Spend your strength and your ego in the service of the writer, not for their own sake – or yours.’ And 
    • ‘It’s a service job.’” 

Those are the promises I make to my writers, and I do my best to keep them.





For a free sample edit and consultation (500 words or so), click on the Contact Me button and tell me about it. Let’s begin a conversation.

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A Word About Rates

   Getting real for a moment: a note about my rates: I base my rate on EFA averages. So they are reasonable – more than a carpenter, less than a software engineer. No surprise there.

   Normally I work fast, and I like to charge by the hour, since editing is different for every client, every draft.  That, of course, implies an element of trust.

But if you feel more comfortable paying by the word, I can charge that way.

   In that case I’ll ask for a sample (500-1000 words) to edit and estimate the speed at which I might work – and then give you a per-word rate.