Do I Need an Editor, a Writing Coach or a Ghostwriter?

I often hear: I need help with my writing project but I’m not sure what I need. This can be especially true for those just starting on longer pieces of fiction or nonfiction. Whether it’s your first essay or your second novel, having someone else provide feedback on your work can be a crucial part of the writing process. A helpful starting point is to understand what each type of writing expert does, then to look for someone with whom you connect. 

Do I Need an Editor? 

There are several different types of editors out there, mainly: developmental editors, line editors, copy editors and proofreaders. In the next post, we’ll be going into plenty of detail on what each type of editor does (and what they charge), but here is a high-level view. 

An editor is for writers who have at least some form of their draft written and need another pair of eyes to provide feedback. These clients don’t necessarily need to speak with someone (though that can always be helpful), but will typically email their work to their editor and receive said work back with comments and edits. Depending on your agreement, the editor might then read the material a second time and provide a final set of eyes on the changes you made. 

A couple things to keep in mind with editors:

Always establish what your workflow will be. Will the editor leave the track changes feature on then send their edits back for you to approve? Or do you prefer they just make the edits and point out anything major they changed?  

Is the writer savvy with Word or Google docs? Using Google docs is my preferred means of sharing material, since they’re live docs we can work in together. This prevents the creation of multiple versions, lost work, confusion, crying. Some of my less tech-savvy clients are not as comfortable using the track changes or the commenting feature, and that’s fine as long as we work out a system that works for us both. 

Do I Need a Writing Coach? 

A writer’s relationship with their writing coach can be a beautiful, long-term relationship, not unlike a client and their therapist. Typically, the writer will send materials to their coach between meetings so both parties can attend their sessions prepared with feedback and questions.  

Agreements vary, but typically, writer and coach meet weekly, biweekly or monthly, depending on the writer’s needs. I’ll meet with my clients more regularly at the start of our relationship, and/or at the start of a new project. When I was a writing coach for people creating online courses, we met weekly for the first two to three weeks, then backed off to give the client some time to work and send me materials to review before our next meeting. Over the course of about six months, we’d typically meet five times. For clients working on a novel or full-length nonfiction book, we’ll usually meet regularly over the course of one to two years. 

Do I Need a Ghostwriter? 

A ghostwriter is for people who have ideas, stories and expertise, but they are not “writers.” A quick pause on this term: some people whole-heartedly state that they are not writers; they do not enjoy it, they do not want to learn how to do it and they want someone else to do the writing for them. Writing is just not what they want to be doing with their time. These clients are the sharers of knowledge, the weavers of tales. Hey, I wouldn’t enjoy being a real estate agent but I’d enjoy writing a book about it if you tell me what it needs to say. We all have our passions and strong suits. That said, I don’t want to get into the realm of who “can” write and who can’t, because the answer is: anyone can write if they enjoy it and want to practice the craft. 

But back to ghostwriting. 

To clarify, a ghostwriter is someone who will actually write your book, article, script, whatever, for you. Whether you give them credit for this work is up to you. I’ve had clients who prefer my name remain out of it (though I’m usually thanked in the acknowledgements, which is nice), and I’ve had clients say they wouldn’t feel comfortable not having my name as a co-author. As long as this is established up front, no hard feelings or attorneys need be involved. 

In Conclusion 

Depending on where you’re at in your writing or professional career, your needs might vary. If none of the above roles seem like they’d be helpful for you, a mentor might be a good fit. We’ll be going into more details on mentorship and writing programs in another post, but finding some form of writing community can be an excellent way to keep you on track and feel supported. With writing, it’s important to like who you’re working with, whether it’s your writing coach, editor, ghost, mentor or group. 

Do you have specific questions or want tailored advice? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. Keep the writing love strong by sharing this post.

Michelle Kicherer is the founder of Ghost Writer’s Block. She is a ghost herself, writes her own fiction and nonfiction, and teaches online classes through Litquake and others. 

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