Working with a Table of Contents – Podcast Episode 3

In this episode in our series on working on what it’s like to work with a writing coach and editor, I ask our coach and editor Matthew Pearl to take a look at my working table of contents – long before the book is finished. It’s a longer episode than usual, so get your coffee before you press play! But, as always, it’s worth listening to him. Here’s my favourite bit from this episode:

Different editors have different styles. And it really is a personal choice for the writer to see what works best for them. If I find things that are out of place or things that really don’t work, I don’t think criticism is the way to go. It’s rather, suggesting how to rearrange things, how to move things around and knowing when to say, “I need a better explanation of that”.
My style is to say: What can I do with things that are in front me with the fewest adjustments to get the message across that the writer wants to get across.
I don’t care about how I would write your book. I’m going in as really a very active reader and one who wants the best experience possible with what I’m reading.
My suggestions to you are always: “Say more here”, “I like this point”, “Does this relate to what you said in Chapter 4, is that the same kind of humor?”
I’m interested in and excited about getting you to use that brain that’s creating this wonderful writing. I’m there to just sort of draw a line and then ask you to explain it. And that makes it so much more enjoyable for me – that’s why I do this. – Matthew Pearl

4 thoughts on “Working with a Table of Contents – Podcast Episode 3

  1. Just had my coaching session with Matthew Pearl today – took off from this podcast I heard halfway through the other day. Excellent brain food! Nice podcast, Doret Jordaan.

  2. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final published version of your book, not just for the extremely interesting content, but to see how things have developed over time and to see the evidence of your progress. Again I found myself agreeing with Matthew, sometimes before he said what I was thinking!

    For a book like yours, I think it’s a great way to approach the writing by starting off with a list of the things you want to include in it – it may be a list of bullet points or some initial chapter headings – as this can be a framework to help guide you through the process, but it’s not so rigid that it hems you in. The really interesting thing is to see the editing and refining as you work through the process.

    Some writers get all their ideas out on the page and then think the work is done, but that’s only the starting point for authors who want to produce their best work. Whether you can find a great and trusted friend or you can afford a professional, having a team of more than one is a way to develop and reassure you in your work – and it prevents the isolation that some writers feel they must suffer, along with giving you accountability and avoiding procrastination.
    It’s so exciting to listen to this series and hear the vocalisation of an editor along with the author. I can’t wait to hear the next episode.

  3. Thanks for the great feedback, Andrea! Reading things like your comment makes me want to finish the book too! I think the next episode with Matthew (not sure if it will be no. 4 or the next one) will be a lot of fun, I’m going to send him a badly written draft of a chapter and see what he makes of it 🙂 Thanks for listening!

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