From Idea to Finished Project: How a Story Consultant Can Help You
Does your work-in-progress book or screenplay need a jolt? A story consultant can help at any stage of the writing process. Learn what a story consultant is and how one can guide you into creating a book or screenplay your audience loves.
If you are ready to work with a story consultant, check out my story consultations.
What is a story consultant?
A story consultant provides advice to a writer on a specific project, typically around major structural decisions involving characters and plot. The consultant's goal is to make the project more appealing to the intended audience.
The advice may come at any point in the writing process, from the initial-idea stage all the way up to later drafts. That being said, a story consultant is not an editor who will read a draft. A story consultant is also not someone who will write a draft for you.
Rather, you'd provide the consultant with some high-level information about your story and the consultant will provide high-level feedback.
What is the process for working with a story consultant?
Processes would vary among consultants, however, in general, the consultant will ask a writer some broad questions about the story, such as:
If you're far along in the writing process, you likely would already have answers to questions like these. However, if you're at an early phase, you may just know your genre and have a concept of your main character. If so, that should be fine - a consultant can help develop what you have into a larger, cohesive idea.
If you're running into a particular challenge with your story, you should tell the consultant about it. For instance, maybe you're happy with your characters, yet feel your ending lacks impact.
The consultant should provide a timeline on when you'll receive your advice, which may be delivered in a PDF document (or a similar format).
What types of recommendations does a story consultant make?
If you told the consultant about a specific challenge you were facing with your story, the consultant should of course focus attention on a solution. Other recommendations would depend on the particular information about your story you provide.
If you're at an early stage of the writing process, the consultant's tips may be around choosing an effective antagonist to oppose your protagonist. If you happen to be at a later stage, with well-developed characters, the consultant may offer advice for elevating the conflict between characters.
If you're far along with the writing, the consultant should still assess what you've done and consider alternatives. If a writer spent months on a draft, however, selected a protagonist that doesn't fit well with the genre, the consultant should give the writer this feedback, even if it's a bit disappointing.
Long term, honesty can only help the writer. After he fixes the problem and puts out the finished version of his story, he should get past the brief feeling of disappointment, glad the version of the story shared with the world is better than the original.
Some typical facets of creative writing that story consultations cover are:
How to choose the right story consultant
I'd recommend a story consultant who is also an experienced writer. If you were looking for effective cooking advice, you'd probably want the opinion of someone who actually cooks, right? Like an experienced chef. The same logic holds for writing advice.
However, I do suggest you also get opinions on your story from people who aren't writers. Friends of yours may be happy to do this. Ultimately, the audience's opinion determines how your story is "received," and most people in a general audience aren't going to be writers. Thus, non-writer opinions are very important.
Many non-writers are good at providing "review"-style feedback. Ex, "I liked the villain" or "The middle part is a little boring." However, because these readers can identify parts of your story they don't like, doesn't mean they can tell you how to fix them.
For instance, though I'm not a musician, if I hear a song, I pretty quickly know if I like it or not. But if I happened to not like a song, I would have no idea how to give the band specific advice for fixing it. I'm sure other musicians would be able to, though.
Is a story consultation worth the cost?
Prices for story consultations vary. You first want to make sure you pick a consultant who's offering a fair price. As for what you'd be financially getting in return for the fee, consider the potential buyers for your story.
Are you an author who'll be selling books? If a consultant's recommendations make your story more appealing to its intended audience, chances are you'll sell more copies. Just a handful of additional book sales can compensate for the cost of a reasonably priced consultation. If your book turns into a bestseller, you can earn a lot more in royalties over time.
Are you a screenwriter? If a consultant's recommendations make your story enticing to a film producer, the sale of your project may earn you $100,000 or more in an instant.
What genres do story consultations cover?
Story consultations are available across the narrative writing spectrum, both for fiction and narrative non-fiction, in all genres, such as:
Want to learn more about my story consultations?
Check out my story consultation service.
Additional writing advice
Story consultants are helpful if you've begun a writing project. However, you may want writing help even if you don't have a specific project underway yet. If so, you may like an online writing course. You can learn the elements of a great story, even if you're not yet writing one.
Check out this list I put together of the best novel writing courses.