Originally from New England, I’ve been living in the Asheville, NC, area for five years. I’m a single dad to a precocious daughter who currently loves anything to do with NASA and Mars and the Apollo missions. Which warms my heart because I loved space stuff and watched Star Trek and Red Dwarf when I was a teenager (OK, even now) and I never pushed that on her. Apart from that, perhaps the most interesting and surprising thing I do is dance Argentine tango. I was obsessed with it more than ten years ago, took a break from it, and am getting back into it whenever I can.
2. Why did you decide to start your writing/editing career?
I’d wanted to be a writer since fifth grade, when I wrote a story called “The Burglar and the Bear.” In high school, I wrote its sequels and a prequel. I became a journalism major so I could write and make money at the same time. (I was in for a rude awakening.) After a detour through web development, I was called back to writing. I heard about Gateless Writing retreats, led by Suzanne Kingsbury, and that changed how I thought about writing in general—I realized its power—and about the value that my voice has in the world.
3. How did you get into photography?
Even though I took a photojournalism course in college, I didn’t really “get into” it until I saw how my ex responded to my photos. She encouraged me to do more, and we bought a DSLR.
I brought the camera, a Nikon D90, to a Literary Death Match event in Cambridge, mostly as an introvert’s shield because I was really shy then. One of the organizers saw my camera and asked if I’d send them photos. I said sure, and they paid me. I ended up being their go-to photog at future events.
I got enough confidence to offer to photograph GrubStreet’s Muse & the Marketplace writers conference in Boston. I’ve since photographed a few Gateless Writing retreats, the North Carolina Writers’ Network spring conference, the first two Greensboro Bound literary festivals, and a recent Flatiron Writers Room event in Asheville.
I like how my event photography work overlaps with my literary life, but I sometimes get to photograph portraits of fashion models and tango dancers. I also offer author headshots for local writers.
4. When did you publish your first work?
I have two answers for this.
My first published work, outside of high school or college newspapers, was in Echoes magazine back in 1993, when I was 16. The magazine had a county-wide contest for high school-age writers to interview an elder of their community. I didn’t win the contest, but the magazine editor said with further revision, I could be published in a subsequent issue. It did get published, and a few years later, as luck would have it, she ended up being my college advisor.
My first published fiction, in 2015, was a flash piece called “Hands” in Literary Orphans, an online journal. That story was born at my first Gateless Writing retreat, in fall 2014, at Gray Bear Lodge in Tennessee. We had been given a prompt and encouraged to read our work after writing stream-of-conscious for half an hour. I hated what I wrote, so I passed. I did not read it. I was filled with dread and self-doubt the whole weekend. Finally, with the encouragement of another writer there, at the last possible chance to read before leaving, I read it. Everyone’s jaw dropped, and the immediate feedback I got from Suzanne Kingsbury (the Gateless Writing retreat leader) was incredible. With subsequent editing, it was published less than a year later.
5. How many works have you published?
Apart from the magazine profile mentioned above and journalism, I have three short stories and two essays published. All five are online. I’ve compiled them all here:
6. Are you working on anything new?
I have taken a break from writing for a bit while I build the editing business, although some ideas are simmering. I’ve been encouraged to write stories from my life growing up in Maine. I’ve struggled with that. However, my published short stories are inspired by real life events, even “Graveyard Shift.” I feel more comfortable fictionalizing my life.
7. Tell us about your services, in as much detail as possible.
a. What is a Gateless Writing Instructor?
Gateless Writing is a methodology of writing based on brain science created by award-winning author Suzanne Kingsbury. Encouragement, rather than criticism, during the writing process is the foundation for works of genius. The inner critic and the external critic exist to protect us and keep us safe in our world—but being creative is the act of breaking down those walls and finding a new way to be in the world. That is scary and too risky to the critic.
So, a certified Gateless Writing instructor helps writers to befriend the critic, provide craft tools to make the writing match the writer’s vision, and encourage the writing process with positive feedback. The feedback is not about stroking the ego. The feedback shows what is working and why. Soon what is not working will be obvious and will naturally fall away and be replaced with what does work.
b. What is developmental editing?
Writers sometimes live with their ideas for so long that they are too close to the material to see if it’s actually all on the page. A developmental editor takes the bird’s eye (macro-level) view of a book and helps to address those big-picture issues such as structure. Sometimes the main character’s arc from beginning to end is incomplete. A scene needs more detail in order to be more fully realized and powerful. A whole chapter may be unnecessary. Or there is no plot.
Developmental editing is synonymous with the term substantial editing, and the amount of editing can run the spectrum of small or large, but the purpose of this kind of editing is to get at the heart of the story and to ensure that what is written down matches the vision of the writer.
Importantly, at least when working with me, writers should know that developmental editing is not about “fixing” anything. It’s not about identifying anything that is “wrong.” It’s about identifying what the writer’s vision is for the book and supporting the writer in achieving that on the page.
Also, if a writer has the manuscript copy edited, I highly recommend a developmental edit be done first. Otherwise, the quality will suffer without a dev edit, or a dev edit would require a copy edit afterward.
c. What is copy editing?
Copy editing is what most people probably think of when they think of editing. If developmental editing is the macro view of a book, copy editing is the micro view, on the sentence level. A copy editor goes through the manuscript correcting spelling and grammar mistakes, tightening up sentences, noting inconsistencies. Not all copy editors do this, but I sometimes flag anything that might be a larger concern that a developmental editor would have (or should have) caught.
d. Do you offer line editing?
I have yet to have a writer ask me for this specifically, but I do offer line editing, which is when an editor makes significant rewrites on a sentence level. Depending on the level of work needed in a copy edit, I might just include this in my copy editing service and call it a “heavy copy edit,” which would cost more than a light or typical copy edit.
e. What can writers expect when they sign up with you?
I offer writers not just editing services but a path to publishing. Whether it’s with fiction or nonfiction, writers can expect me to ask a lot of questions to get a big-picture view of their project. Writers can expect me to ask about their vision for the book and the end goal—their definition of success. The end goal plays an important role in my editing process, especially in a developmental edit.
Different editors offer varying degrees of services and use different terms for each, and sometimes they overlap. It’s best to know which stage you’re at with your manuscript to determine what kind of editing you might need. If you’re not sure, a good editor can help you figure it out.
The best way to do this is through a manuscript assessment or review. In a review, the editor doesn’t edit the manuscript but does read it and provide the writer with a multi-page document filled with notes and suggestions, and it can include a recommendation on next steps. In an ideal world, the manuscript would be perfect, but usually there is quite a bit of editing to do.
As I mentioned earlier, my approach is all about identifying the vision the writer has for the work and determining whether the writer has achieved that. If the writer isn’t there yet, I am there to help guide them by offering craft tools along the way.
f. What do you expect from the writer during the editing process?
My ideal writer client is someone who wants to inspire or affect change in the world. That is my reason for being, and I love working with writers who are on that same wavelength.
I expect writers to know what the goals are for their book. Do they want to publish traditionally or self-publish? Do they just want a few copies for friends and family or do they want to bust out and change the world?
Writers ought to have a vision for what success looks like to them. If we are to work together, what must happen in order for me to succeed as the editor, or coach, or advocate?
I expect writers to trust my judgment.
I expect writers to trust their own judgment, too.
Because the story chose them to exist in this world. Writers are the conduits that allow stories to exist. Writers must be guardians of their work and go with their gut, so to speak, when choosing who best to help them create their work of art. In so doing, I expect writers to ask as many questions as they feel necessary to determine if we’re a good match.
g. Can you give us pricing?
The more projects I work on, the more I tend to adjust the rates, so let these numbers be a ballpark. I typically create custom packages that pick from these options depending on the writer’s goals. Writers may contact me to learn more about how I can help them with their particular project.
A sample edit of the middle section of the book is $150. An outline review is the same.
Two-hour craft workshops (see details below) are $250 each and can be in-person meetings, if you’re local, or via a Zoom call.
A manuscript review/assessment is $750. Price may fluctuate depending on manuscript size. The review determines next steps, and the type of editing I recommend.
A developmental edit is $2,000/month as needed. Meaning, if the manuscript is pretty clean and it needs few edits, it might be only a month of work. If there’s a lot of work to be done, then my fee essentially puts me on retainer until everyone is happy with the result.
A copy edit is $1,500 minimum at 2¢ per word.
If a writer finds my price range out of their budget, they can let me know what their budget is, and I may be able to offer an alternative service that aligns with their needs.
I am considering to offer daylong or weekend writing retreats in the Asheville area in the near future.
h. How long does it take to do each type of editing?
Copy editing turnaround time can be between two and four weeks, depending on manuscript size and scheduling.
Developmental editing can take a month, or it can be monthly until everyone is satisfied.
i. Would you like to share anything else about the editing?
Editors are your advocate. If they are aligned with your vision and your goals, you can trust their judgment, as I said earlier. You’ve hired them to help you present to the world the best book possible. So trust them. But go with your gut, too.
j. Are there any other services you offer?
Yes. More on that path to publishing:
I offer sample edits and outline reviews. I also offer two-hour workshops that can be done in-person for Asheville writers or via Zoom. The workshops are one-on-one sessions on craft (if you’re stuck on a certain aspect of the manuscript) or on reviewing query letters, pitches, etc.
If a writer is ready to pitch agents, I can help with crafting the query letter and even help with finding agents.
I can help a nonfiction writer who wants to publish traditionally by helping to craft the book proposal, which is essentially the business plan for the writer’s book idea. It’s the document that a literary agent would use to sell the manuscript, to convince traditional publishers why the proposed book is needed in the marketplace and how it can succeed. It can be anywhere from fifty to seventy pages long with distinct, important sections that make the case for the book. Typically this is written and submitted before the manuscript is complete.
If a writer decides to self-publish and needs a book cover or the interior designed, I know a few book designers with whom we can choose to collaborate, both locally and from afar.
I don’t offer ghostwriting per se but know ghostwriters local and afar.
I know people in the industry and have a pulse on what’s happening. And if I don’t know the answer, I can find it.
8. Would you say photography plays an important part in a writing career?
I would not say that. However, both creative outlets help you see the world in different ways, for both the creator and the viewer.
9. What advice would you give upcoming authors?
Society and the publishing world are set up to be stacked against you. The paradigm is built on criticism. The critical eye, the pointing finger, the red ink. I continually hear writers who say they want the harshest criticism, that they can “take it.” However, the harshest criticism can knock a well-meaning writer down and cause them to believe they’re not a good enough writer and they shouldn’t even try.
It’s your mission as a writer to believe in yourself and your story. If the story is nagging at you, it’s waiting for you to take action. And the action it’s waiting for is to have you write its message on its behalf.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share or want the readers to know?
It’s my birthday month! In celebration: For the first person who pays for a developmental edit, I will throw in a free two-hour craft workshop where we can talk about any issues that are coming up.
Editing FB: http://fb.me/stanleydankoskiedits
Photo FB: http://fb.me/stanley.dankoski.photography
Twitter: @stango or http://www.twitter.com/stango