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James Newcomer, Ph.D. Developmental, Line and Copy Editing


Take Your Writing from Good to Great

What does that mean?

    • Developmental and line editing 
    • Copy editing
    • Memoirs and Other Non-fiction
    • Literary Fiction
    • Academic – Social Sciences
    • ESL – Serving Chinese Authors who Write in English
    • Reasonable hourly rates.

What I do

I support writers – people who are writing a memoir or non-fiction (and occasionally an academic article) and intend for it to be good, really good.

I love working with writers to bring out their best. I work with each client – and you, if we decide to work together – to focus on your main theme, hone your story arc, communicate clearly what’s at stake, and flesh out your characters. I respect your style and choice of language so that the tone reflects your personality accurately. But at the same time, I help you avoid unnecessary side trips, digressions, and even grammatical errors that would put off your readers.

I conceive of my job as showing you how you can bring your draft from good to great.

To state it more formally, a developmental editor reads your narrative or article through and give you a written response  that suggests how you might

      • sharpen your story arc and make sure it illuminates your (one) main theme,
      • ensure that your telling of the tale is structured to engage your readers all the way to the end – that you present the inciting incident early, take your reader through your conflict filling in the background along the way, and end with closure that conveys the truth and power of your narrative.
      • communicate clearly what’s at the stake for you or your protagonist,
      • flesh out the other characters so they come to life and make sure they contribute to your theme
      • create and use your settings so they evoke and enhance the tone of your story,
      • optimize the style and language to fit your personality accurately while earning respect from your readers, and
      • avoid unnecessary side trips, digressions, and even grammatical errors that would slow down or put off your readers.

If you are writing a social science paper or book, I suggest ways you can choose clear language to reach a deeper audience than you might otherwise. (Think how much easier life would have been if Talcott Parsons had been edited for clarity.) I do this in consultation with you to ensure that your argument, data, and conclusions are presented in the right order, stated accurately, and matched to the requirements of the journal in which you intend to publish.


Getting there – all the way there

As you write from chapter to chapter, draft through draft, I remain available to read, comment, consult, edit, suggest alternatives right through to completion.

For some authors that has included even the mundane –just nudging or inspiring (whatever it takes) to keep them writing regularly, day in and day out, till they complete the draft.


Blood, sweat, and (the occasional Oxford comma)

If my job is showing you how to transform your draft from good to great, how does that work? It’s a truism that great art emerges from a combination of inspiration , dedication, and craft. You may start with an inspiration, but you finish by mastering your craft. You do that by grinding out draft after draft, each one better than the last. The craft, obviously, is the hard part. I have stayed with all of my clients through that process to remind them they are doing the work to achieve great writing.

That said, I also remind you to remember the origin of your inspiration, to deepen your exploration of it as it unfolds, and reach into the place in you where the truth lies. Then can you bring that deep truth to the surface – beyond ordinary. That’s where you experience the deepest reward of writing.


Ruthless Compassion

Another way that I am useful in the process is that I’m simultaneously encouraging and ruthlessly critical. If your goal is to write a great book, your final product must reflect your determination to return to it again and again so that the final version is so good that readers take the book to bed with them, so good that the writing looks effortless, and so good that nothing distracts your reader from your story.

That quality of writing requires your devotion to hard, steady, and thoughtful work, often through several drafts.

Encouragement and criticism can keep you going and point your way to excellence.

Sound useful? Let’s talk about rates and what you are looking for. Email me and tell me about your work at

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