I provide editing services for both individual and institutional clients, including fiction and nonfiction projects such as articles, essays, short stories, novels, and other book-length works. My objective is to help you clarify and then realize your own goals for your work, in terms of both the writing itself and where it ultimately leads.
In nonfiction, I have edited nearly forty books for Cambridge University Press, and several books for other publishers. My work for C.U.P. entailed editing for strength of conceptualization and argument, structural elegance and cohesion, clarity of language, and consistency of terminology and style. In projects for my private clients, I look at the same issues, along with matters of individual voice and tone, which are crucial in nonacademic genres such as memoir. My years of experience in medical journalism can be particularly helpful to those who want to write about medicine and health.
In fiction, I also consider voice, as well as related matters such as characterization, point of view, motivation, conflict, dialogue, and structure. I edit my own students’ work — both in workshops and in helping them apply to grad school — and they have been accepted to many prestigious MFA programs, including the University of Texas’s Michener Center, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, the New School, the University of Montana, Antioch / L.A., and the University of Tampa. You can get a feel for my approach by reading the testimonials of a few of those students in the “teaching” section of this website.
⎯⎯ How It Works ⎯⎯
If you live in the S.F. Bay area, you can take a class with me through the Writing Salon in Berkeley. This will let you see how I approach the process and find out if you’re comfortable with it. If you don’t live here or prefer not to take a workshop, just get in touch through my Contact page and tell me a bit about yourself, your experience, and your goals (e.g., to publish a story or a book, to apply to MFA programs, etc.). Then give me a little more detail about your project, and ideally send me 10 or 15 sample pages. There’s no charge for this initial consultation.
I particularly enjoy working with writers in the early stages of their careers, whether they’re considering applying to MFA programs; searching for an agent; making decisions about submitting to magazines, journals, contests, and small presses; or simply writing for the pleasure of it and seeing where it leads. That said, I’ve collaborated with some very accomplished writers — including those who have published multiple books — and always appreciate the push-and-pull of ideas involved in such advanced work. If you’re interested in MFA programs, and I’m editing your sample stories, I can also provide counseling about which programs may be a good fit, depending on your interests and needs, and I don’t charge anything additional for such consultation.
I’m admittedly selective in what I take on: in the fiction realm I focus primarily in literary, upmarket, mainstream, and speculative fiction. I’m not your best choice for genre work (detective, romance, sci-fi, etc.). This is simply because I don’t read a lot in those genres, and you’d be better served by someone who does. In any case, if it if seems like a good fit, we can talk about how best to proceed. If not, I may be able to refer you to other editors I know. If I feel that your work is at an early enough stage that you’re more likely to benefit from taking a few writing classes than paying me for editorial work, I’ll tell you so, gently but honestly.
⎯⎯ About Comprehensive Editing ⎯⎯
Some editors break their services down into different categories: developmental editing, content editing, copyediting, line editing, and so forth. I’ve always considered this piecemeal approach somewhat suspect. I don’t think it’s helpful to pay for a copyedit if your manuscript has major conceptual issues that need to be addressed (e.g., are you writing this novel in first-person POV when it really wants to be in third person—or vice-versa? Does the structure hang together effectively, or do you need to reconsider it?). On the other hand, I don’t think it’s optimal to provide a developmental edit but fail to address line editing issues that will lead an agent or editor to toss your project aside after the first couple of pages, regardless of how beautifully conceived or structured it is.
So I offer what I call a comprehensive edit—which means developmental (looking at conceptual and structural issues), content-oriented (is there fat that needs to be trimmed, or are there elements missing that should be here?), and also line editing, so the writing is clean and vivid. If we agree that it seems like a good idea to work together, you’ll email me the manuscript. I’ll then print it and work on the hard copy, which I’ll return to you with margin notes and a separate, more global commentary. This consists of an overview of my impressions, with general notes, and usually runs between 300 and 800 words.
⎯⎯ Testimonials ⎯⎯
Cary Groner is a consummate professional. Yes, he treats the work he edits with extraordinary respect and careful attention. Yes, he is an expert copyeditor. But what is perhaps most rare about Cary, a fine writer himself, is the degree of discernment he brings to the task. I recommend him highly.
— ELIZABETH EVANS, author of Carter Clay, As Good as Dead, The Blue Hour, and other books. Professor emeritus, University of Arizona.
Cary’s careful reading of and notes on my manuscript helped me in many ways. He really understood the story I was trying to tell and gave me specific feedback on how to structure the narrative to most powerfully tell it (how/when to use flashbacks , whose perspective and point of view had the most strength, how to edit out scenes that took the reader away from the main story). He also suggested books written in similar styles and about similar themes, which gave me concrete examples of some of the structural edits he suggested. Cary’s feedback was thoughtful and detailed, and he was available to do multiple readings as I began the editing process, which also kept me focused and productive as I rewrote.
— MADELEINE R., El Cerrito, CA
I recently had the pleasure of working with Cary on my MFA application materials. In addition to being an engaging and knowledgeable editor, Cary’s feedback is always thorough, thoughtful, and encouraging. His detailed line edits have helped me write cleaner and snappier prose, and his global comments have given me the push I needed to get at the heart of my themes and characters. Cary is not only caring and professional in his editing and instruction, but is also open, personable, and truly a joy to work with.
— SACHIKO R., Oakland, CA
I had the opportunity to work with Cary on several manuscripts when I was a production editor at Cambridge University Press. Cary impressed me right away with his thorough grasp of style guidelines and his consummate skill at copy- and line-editing. What really set him apart, though, was his ability to quickly comprehend the concepts associated with specialized and arcane academic works and guide the authors to greater clarity in both their arguments and their structural approaches to the subject matter. Cary was tactful but forthright in calling out the sort of needlessly convoluted “academese” that sometimes afflicted such manuscripts, and the authors were grateful for his insight. I should add that Cary is, on a personal level, kind, funny, and easy to get along with—qualities that make a sometimes difficult editorial process much more enjoyable.
— MARY BECKER, Cambridge University Press (retired)
⎯⎯ Fees & Details ⎯⎯
I charge an hourly rate of $125, but offer a discount to those who have taken my classes and to others (such as undergrads considering an MFA program) whose ability to pay may be limited. Let me know what your situation is, and we’ll discuss the options. If you’d prefer to pay on a per-word basis, I charge .05 (five cents) US per manuscript word (again, with discounts for former students and those in special circumstances) . I give a manuscript two readings unless my clients specify otherwise.
I always respect my clients’ confidentiality, and will not use your name to promote my services unless you specifically agree. This is because I sometimes work with tenured professors and published authors who’d rather not broadcast their use of an outside editor. I can assure you, though, that the practice is very common.