PART ONE – BRIEF

Alongside my own short- and longform writing projects, I provide bespoke editorial services to technical practitioners. “Technical practitioners” are individuals and organisations that possess high competence in specific domains, as well as a strong bias for action. Thus, they have little time to navigate the labyrinth that is the craft of writing. This is where the “bespoke editorial services” I provide come in. They are as follows:

Consulting
An ongoing dialogue that, first, considers the suitability of writing as a medium, and second, explores the effectiveness and execution of different forms.

Translation
An alchemical process that takes in-depth interviews and turns them into prose.

Sparring
Discussion and breakdown of early concepts, outlines and drafts. A.K.A. “macro-editing”.

Tune Ups
A systematic, rigorous, line-by-line analysis of late-stage drafts. A.K.A. “micro-editing”.

Writing
An end-to-end service. From research and ideation all the way to published prose.

The precise cocktail of service and support is unique to each individual or organisation, but common to each arrangement is the agile and intimate service I provide.


If you have any questions, would like more information, or want to arrange an informal discussion regarding any of the above please contact me via email: matt@swellandcut.com.

Alternatively, keep reading for immediate insight into the editorial work I do and the specific processes and models I use.


PART TWO – SHOW AND TELL

Common business practice is to obscure and complicate, to drown potential clients in fear, uncertainty and doubt, then swoop in, offering them a perfect solution to the problem that’s been so meticulously crafted. I hate that. So I intend, with the following sections, to shine a light on what I do. To give you everything I know for nothing – except the time required to read, digest and implement it.

This is part altruism – I do it because I wish others would talk more frankly and in more detail about their process – and part pragmatism. It is my understanding that the more value I provide to a greater number of people, the higher the probability that something will circle back round to me, eventually, in a little or large way. Which is why, in the sections that follow, I have elaborated on my work and my methods in as much detail and with as much clarity as I am able to muster.


CONTENTS

  1. Process
  2. Services
    2a. Consulting
    2b. Translation (Coming Soon)
    2c. Sparring (Coming Soon)
    2d. Tune Ups (Coming Soon)
    2e. Writing (Coming Soon)
  3. Case Studies (Coming Soon)
  4. Resources and Influences (Coming Soon)
  5. Exclusion Statement (Coming Soon)
  6. Miscellaneous Information (Coming Soon)

1. Process

In Models Behaving Badly, Emanuel Dermann highlights the fallibility of models and the risk of relying overmuch upon them. Dermann is mostly talking about financial and statistical models, but one heuristic he advises adopting applies equally to other crafts and other domains, including writing. Paraphrasing:

Many vulgar models used in a sophisticated way is better than a few sophisticated models used in a vulgar way.

Keep this in mind when viewing the model I’m about to present. I use it in my work as a starting point, and as a tool to help me orientate and prioritise what I should be doing at different points in different projects.

Also keep in mind the concept of linearity. Or rather, its absence in the creative process. Yes, consumption is linear, but creation is not. It is messy and requires much flitting about. Hence, the categories below bleed into one another, and while it is possible to move neatly from one stage to the next, such a scenario is the exception rather than the norm. Here is the model:

the writing process22

I suspect that without an understanding of the terms included the diagram doesn’t make much sense. So allow me to elaborate:

“Thrashing”
A term stolen from Seth Godin’s Linchpin. It is the exploration, experimentation and alteration of ideas pertaining to a project, and the toying with components from which it is made. Thrashing can be abstract – should this narrative be told as a novel, as a screenplay, as a theatre production, etc. – or it can be granular – questions of typeface, colour, keywords, and channels in an ad campaign. Thrashing decreases the closer a project gets to its ship date – you can’t change who plays the female lead in a movie two weeks before it hits the cinema.

“Start-Ship”
“Start” is the point at which a decision is made to begin a project. It is not speculation regarding specifics. It is a commitment to see a project through to completion. “Ship” is when a project is released to the world – the site goes live, the product goes on sale, the show goes on air. Note that the word is not “finished”. As the denizens of Pixar like to say, their stories are released, never finished.

“Preparation”
Everything that occurs before the beginning of a particular project. It is life experience, it is the skills you acquire, the relationships built and dissolved, the beliefs picked up and put down. It is wins, losses, successes, failures, fears, desires.

“Ideation/Research”
Freeform or targeted exploration. It could also be classified as “play”, because the point of the ideation and research phase is to explore with minimal regard for probabilities or metrics and gather basic information.

“Outlining”
The culling of ideas accumulated in the research and ideation phase and the sequencing of the survivors into a compelling narrative or order.

“Drafting”
An outline can be detailed whilst remaining abstract. For example, I could have, “Peter breaks the news to Poppy: he doesn’t know where their pet panther is.” The drafting stage is where that abstract scenario gets unpacked and laid down: words, gestures, events, the environment in which they take place, and so much more, become concrete.

“Macro-Editing”
With a working draft, macro-editing can take place. Macro-editing is concerned with substance. It asks, “What is being said?” It is figuring out what needs to be added, what needs to be removed, what needs to expanded, and what needs to be condensed. It can be refinement of the existing order, a reshuffle of existing pieces, or a complete re-evaluation of what is there and what isn’t.

“Micro-Editing” 
Micro-editing is concerned with style. Once the substance is locked in, we stop asking, “What is being said?” and instead ask, “How are we saying it?” In this stage, the magnifying glass is brought out and each thread of the narrative tapestry is examined for both strengths and defects. Words, sentences, paragraphs, punctuation, tone, emphasis; it all gets worked over.

Hopefully, you now have a fuller understanding of the primary model I use to gauge progress in my own writing projects, and those I embark upon with clients. As I mentioned above, it is not the only model I use, but it is a helpful frame.

Back to Contents


2. SERVICES

This section describes, one-by-one, the services I provide to clients. These services are sometimes distinct and clearly demarcated. Other times, they bleed into and feed one another. It all depends on the scope and demands of the particular project.


2A. CONSULTING

This is the softest process of the lot. It is not delivered via rigourous adherence to a predetermined pathway, but via the use of prompts and open-ended questions. My aim, as the person seeking to understand and discover, is first to find out what the client really wants to happen as a consequence of writing projects, and second, to help them decide whether the written word is a good vehicle for their ambitions.

The first thing to note is that consultation comes in two flavours:

– Initial Consultations
These occur at the beginning of working relationships and are intended to nail down fundamental motivations, expectations and metrics.

– Ongoing Consultations
The purpose of these is to evaluate past and present performance, and modify accordingly to maximise future performance of both client and service provider.

Some of the topics and domains we’ll swerve through in the course of such conversations? In no particular order:

  • Validity of writing compared to other media forms.
  • Possible and probable channels – blogs, newsletters, print media, books, guides etc.
  • Frequency (how often?), length (short-form, long-form), type and depth (stories, basic ideas, complex conceptual structures?).
  • Audience profile – Who are you writing for? Where are they? Do they care? Why should they listen?
  • Longevity of writing as an activity – Dependent on attainment of specific outcome? Indefinite?
  • Metrics and counter-metrics – What does success look like? What about failure? How do we know we’re on the right track?
  • Philosophies and value provision – Do you want to give everything away? Or share a shard of what you know?
  • Level of assistance – Do you seek guidance, or someone to do the legwork? Are you looking for help developing ideas in a cohesive manner, or just an effective way to communicate them?

These seem like simple questions, but upon asking they reveal themselves to be complex issues that require deliberate, prolonged attention. Which is the whole point of this process.