Virginia was recommended to me by a friend whose manuscript, with Virginia’s invaluable assistance, has since been accepted for publication by Pan Macmillan. It was terrifying, handing over the first complete draft of my first book to a professional editor – but it was the best thing I could’ve done. The book was a cross between a biography and a memoir, based on many hours of recorded conversation and written mainly in the voice of the person whose life the book is about. Virginia quickly grasped what I and the protagonist were trying to achieve, and her searching questions and frank feedback were just what I needed to tighten the book’s focus and cut out irrelevant material. It’s tough, but learning to let go of those passages that you’ve lovingly laboured over, but that just don’t work, is an incredibly important lesson. Once I’d made the changes Virginia suggested, I began to believe I had the makings of a story worth telling – and worth reading. She then undertook detailed structural editing of the manuscript – something I was incapable of at that stage, having been immersed in the writing for the previous year. The result was far, far better than I could possibly have achieved alone. I’m forever grateful to Virginia for her input and would be honoured to work with her again.
Writing and publishing a first novel is a long, solitary task. I was grappling with my manuscript in its (close to) final draft stage and knew I needed extra support to push it over the finish line. A writer friend of mine recommended I contact Virginia for a manuscript appraisal. In our first phone call Virginia quickly understood what I was trying to achieve, and with a few questions she cut to the heart of the novel. Together we discussed issues with structure and narrative that might need to be addressed. Virginia promptly delivered an extensive chapter-by-chapter report detailing the strengths of the manuscript, noting flabby sections that could be cut, homing in on inconsistencies in the narrative, and highlighting any problems with characterisation. The report was honest, thoughtful and professional, and pushed my writing and the story to another level. The manuscript is far better for her contribution and is now ready to be sent out into the world.
Writing can be a lonely pursuit, especially novel writing, where it seems all agent and publisher doors can seem impenetrable. To pass through can mean an almost superhuman effort, producing excellent work mixed with incredible luck. No published writer achieves it on their own and the smart and serious writer will equip themselves as best they can. This can mean having someone assess a manuscript, work on development of it, and editing. I was very fortunate to learn that Virginia was looking to help Australian writers get published. She helped me develop two novel-length manuscripts, and her attention to detail, her understanding of what my intentions were, her belief in me and my work, and her warm professionalism were welcome ballast as I tried to get my first book published. Virginia’s efforts mean that now I am with my dream publisher – Allen & Unwin, and in the hands of my dream person there, Jane Palfreyman. I can’t recommend Virginia enough to anyone looking to improve their work and in their efforts to be a published author.
Virginia’s mentoring was vital to the ultimate publication of my work. Her insights were helpful at every stage of the process – from big-picture thinking on narrative structure and focus, through to line-by-line editorial feedback at final draft. She is an expert editorial ‘curator’ and a godsend for a first-time author.