From Diane, Pitch U Founder:
It’s Story Masters week here at Pitch U.
At Pitch U we focus on becoming awesome at pitching and (with Indie U) your career. There’s nothing that contributes more to Awesomeness than writing an awesome book to begin with. That’s why I’m going to (dum dum DUM) this advanced craft-of-writing workshop.
We’ve already heard this week from…
- Donald Maass about How to Be a Story Master.
- How Writers Learn to be Story Masters by James Scott Bell
And now I want to celebrate the woman who runs this conference and all the Donald Mass Breakout Novel Intensives around the country: Lorin Oberweger. She’s a freelance editor/wizard, and you have a chance to work with her at the conference.
Yes, I’ve personally worked with her. And yes, she is so skilled that her client list includes multi-published authors. (Nope, I’m not an affiliate nor do I make money on doing this. I just do it because I love it. Isn’t that why we write to begin with?)
Who is that talented woman?
LORIN OBERWEGER is a highly sought-after independent book editor and ghostwriter with more than twenty years experience in publishing.
(Lorin’s students and clients have millions of books in print and have been published by HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Scholastic, and other mainstream and independent presses. They have also gained representation with some of the industry’s leading literary agents.)
She’s been a friend to Pitch U since the beginning, contributing two amazing articles: Writer’s Miranda Rights (When You Pitch Your Book) and EXPERT PITCH CLASS: Pitch Your Character’s Emotional Arc (CONTEST!)
Diane: Why are you excited about Story Masters?
Lorin: As a writer myself, I’m thrilled to be able to bring together three incredibly talented writing instructors. I have the pleasure of working with Don regularly, and never cease to be amazed by his brilliance. Adding Jim Bell and Chris Vogler to the mix is incredible icing on the cake.
I have to confess to being a bit geeked out at the opportunity to sit and learn from them for four days!
- Christopher Vogler: THE WISDOM OF THE BODY: How the Hero's Journey Triggers the Emotions of the Audience. Vogler is the author of THE WRITER'S JOURNEY: Mythic Structure for Writers and co-author of MEMO FROM THE STORY DEPARTMENT, has helped major filmmakers and studios find the mythic dimension in their work, and he can do the same for your screenplay or novel manuscript.
- Literary Agent Donald Maass: 21st Century Story: In this hands-on, immersive workshop, Mr. Maass demonstrates advanced methods for creating strong story events, plot layers, parallels, reversals, symbols and gripping themes. Coupled with those are techniques for constructing depth of character and sweeping character arcs.
- James Scott Bell: Beyond Nuts and Bolts: Learn the essentials of bestselling fiction, what agents, editors and readers are looking for – and how you can give it to them. You’ll learn everything from The LOCK System for your novel to a system for revision so you don't miss a trick.
Diane: But you’re also working during the conference.
Lorin: I am! I’m excited by the opportunity to add value to that experience for writers by offering really in-depth one-on-one consultations with wonderful editors and brainstorming gurus like Brenda Windberg, Jason Sitzes, and Roman White.
I hope people will avail themselves of the opportunity to get specific feedback on their work while being filled up with an amazing amount of writing knowledge.
Diane: Many writers don’t really know what a freelance story editor can offer them.
Lorin: The long and short of it is that I help writers succeed, artistically and professionally. That can take the form of personal story development weekends, where a writer and I construct (or deconstruct and rebuild) his or her novel over the course of a few days, or it can take the form of developmental and line-editing on a completed manuscript or work in progress.
I offer other services as well, but my overall goal is to be responsive to what each individual client needs to move toward publishing success (or to broaden the success he/she already enjoys).
As to why it’s effective, my fundamental belief is that it’s my job to get down on the page with the author, to really FEEL what he or she is trying to say, to help preserve and bolster the voice of the story, to delve deep into character psychology and motivations, to create a taut and effective overall structure, and so on.
I like to say I just have a “knowin’” where these things are concerned and am able to communicate that to clients, I hope, in a way that leaves them feeling motivated and empowered to do the hard work of making their novel all it can be.
That said, it’s also effective because my clients DO that work.
They’re the ones who go home after our weekends together and write and write and write. They’re the ones who go through my edits page-by-page and respond to my concerns, consider and implement my suggestions, and sometimes take a much tougher but ultimately more rewarding route to elevating their work.
They’re the real stars; I’m just a facilitator of their success.
Diane: What’s the highlight of your work?
Lorin: The highlight of my work is that I get to do something I absolutely love, something that aligns my particular skill set with my values and passions.
Not everyone gets to say that about her professional life, and I don’t for a moment forget my good fortune in being as sought after as I am and having the successes I’ve had.
More specifically, though, I love those amazing breakthrough moments I have with clients, moments where I’m able to unlock pieces of the puzzle with which they’ve sometimes been struggling for months—or years! I love helping them elevate not just their prose but their stories, from character to setting to scene structure and overall plot. I love to push writers because, generally, I only work folks I feel are not only skilled but capable of doing great things.
Some recent client comments, which also constitute recent successes!:
“Lorin was instrumental in helping to develop and then polish my debut novel. From larger story concepts to crafting elegant prose, Lorin is a brilliant mentor. I look forward to working with her for many projects to come.”
-- Veronica Rossi, author of the upcoming UNDER THE NEVER SKY, HarperCollins
“I highly recommend Lorin's services to anyone who wants to take his or her writing to a new level. Lorin's expert advice and editorial comments pushed my manuscript from good to sellable. With her meticulous line edits, I submitted a polished manuscript that quickly attracted the attention of multiple agents and publishers. The result? A two-book deal at auction to Scholastic!”
-- Donna Cooner, author of the upcoming SKINNY, Scholastic
“If you are looking for writing help, Lorin is it. She’s got the experience, she’s got the confidence, but most of all she has the eye. She can look at your manuscript and tell you exactly what it needs.”
-- Lissa Price, debut author of STARTERS, lead title for Spring 2012, Random House, Delacorte
This year, my clients have done amazing things, with more people signing not just contracts but multiple book contracts (yay, career longevity!), finding agents with great agencies, and being not just published but extremely well-published.
Every client’s project is personal to me, and every publishing success story feels like a fresh new thrill!
Diane: So, what happens in a workshop appointment? How is it different than working with your critique partners?
Lorin: In terms of how it differs from working with critique partners… Well, some people have excellent critique partners, but for the most part, those folks haven’t been in the industry for a couple of decades and don’t have a track record of client successes.
They don’t have the same understanding of what books need to be not just enjoyable but publishable—and really not just publishable but to be the kinds of books that will create excitement in agents, editors, and—the most important audience—readers.
Most critique partners also haven’t had the good fortune I’ve had to constantly enhance my knowledge through repeated attendance at two of the best writing workshops in the country (she says, modestly), either one of which has been equated to a full-on Masters Degree program in writing—presented in a week or ten days!
When I sit down with a student (or when Brenda, Jason, or Roman does), my goals for that session are the same as my overall goals for a client—help the writer to do better work. I read (and edit) the first fifteen or so pages, plus a synopsis and other notes on a student’s project, so that when we talk I’m responding not just to those pages, to whether the writer has crafted a compelling opening, using characters with whom one can identify, employing sufficient tension and effective scene structure, etc., but to the story as a whole.
So, it’s far more than line-editing or proofreading, which is a very small part of what we do. It’s about identifying large and small problem areas and helping the writer build strength where they might currently evince weakness.
It’s a very practical, THOROUGH, but I hope, supportive process for writers.
Diane: Can writers continue working with you after the workshop. How does that work?
Lorin: Sure, if we both feel we’d be a good match, I certainly welcome it! It can work in any number of ways, but it generally starts with an email exchange or phone call to determine the best course of action. Then we design a personalized “plan of attack” together and go from there!
Diane’s BONUS PITCH QUESTION: Okay, I have to ask… Is pitching easy or hard for you? What technique and/or approach do you rely on when pitching books?
Lorin: Generally, I don’t pitch client novels directly, though I’ve certainly helped to craft MANY pitches—and, of course, passed on client work from time to time to agents I trust and admire.
One of the most critical things, which I think a lot of writers leave unexpressed, is the emotional arc of the story. It can be captured in just a few words within the pitch, but without that texture, a pitch tends to feel a bit empty and formulaic in my experience.
Whether it’s easy for me to do where my own work is concerned…Hmm. It’s certainly gotten easier over the years, but I’ve tended to detach from the outcome while I still have a work-in-progress. In other words, it’s just practice until the book is ready and I’m pitching in earnest.
Also, I’m fortunate enough to have friends in the industry, with whom I can “vet” certain concepts, to whom I can show pages and talk over plot points, etc., so it’s a little bit less of a white knuckle experience for me. I’m sure when my own novel is complete, and I’m waiting for responses from some of those folks—or others I may contact, I may want to revise this answer!
LORIN OBERWEGER also offers her acclaimed Personal Novel Crafting Retreats--intensive story development weekends for writers in all genres of fiction. In addition, she serves as Editor-in-Residence/Class Instructor for the renowned Writers Retreat Workshop.
An award-winning author, Lorin’s poetry, short fiction, and articles have appeared in well over one-hundred periodicals, including THE MONTSERRAT REVIEW, STORYQUARTERLY, and the bestselling regional anthology FRENCH QUARTER FICTION. Recently, an excerpt of her novel-in-progress, ITCH, was awarded “Best of Workshop” at Writers in Paradise, co-founded by author Dennis Lehane.