Book Consulting

How It Works

You have a writing project in mind, and want to get some advice on it. The best way to begin is to come over to my house for a kitchen-table meeting for a couple of hours. It’s a big kitchen, with a table for your laptop and mine, and I can offer you anything from green tea to Scotch, depending on how the meeting goes.

Or you might have a manuscript. You’re sick to death of it and want to get off your desk, so you send it to me to review. Or you aren’t sick of it, but do have some specific questions about it, or want someone who isn’t your mother to tell you if it’s publishable, or how to make it publishable.

In that case, I read it and mark it and write you a detailed response, and often you then come over to meet with me.

Warning: The service I render you may be to tug the project you’ve been at work on, or thinking about, for years, out of your hands. There are some topics (most, but not all, involving a mother) that will never reward the time spent, but are instead a form of brooding.

Did you lose money through an investment guide who got in over his head and began embezzling? Did you grow up in a really crappy family, or marry an asshole? Some stories we can reframe: some we must shut the door on. What you want to write may not be what the reader wants to read.

On the other hand. I am pretty good at structure.

As novelist Michael Crichton pointed out, you often start with a good idea of what you’re doing: “…as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore … What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the dock, who can say, “Hi, I’m looking at your ship, and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.”

If you are working on a memoir, here’s why a writing coach can help: Writing about your own life offers a particular challenges: in that it  asks you to review events and distinguish between what is important or meaningful to you, and what is important or meaningful to the story. An outsider interested only in story–in what will make the book work–can help you outline the arc of your story (as opposed to just writing down everything that happened in the order it happened), and help you decide what to put in, what to leave out. When the book is ready, I can help you with agents, titles, publishing, and the proposal.

Caveat: Resist the urge to get your project into shape before showing it to me. I want to see it at as early a stage as possible, as I can be most useful in helping to plan the structure. In fact sometimes all you need to bring is a pad of paper and yourself, and we will talk through the book together. We might tape the session, as we cover a lot of ground fast,  and you might want to listen to it later, in the car maybe.

I charge $200  an hour for time spent, whether for meeting in person or for reviewing pages.  You can email me a manuscript –I can upload and read on my Kindle, and print out for written comments. Reading and making detailed suggestions on a book-length manuscript can cost $1200 to $2500, depending on its length and how rough or polished it is.

Praise from Authors Who Have Consulted With Adair
Jacqueline Winspear, author of the bestselling Maisie Dobbs series

I loved Adair’s memoir classes – so rich with content, conversation, advice and solid direction – however, she was always pressing me to try fiction, which I wasn’t at all sure about. Then when the idea for my novel, Maisie Dobbs, came to me, Adair read the first tentative fifteen or so pages and encouraged me to keep going.

Mary Patrick, author of Family Plots
Adair’s keen editorial eye and sharp sense of story arc helped me pare a 500 page manuscript into a tighter, plot driven read. Her coaching and enthusiasm opened doors to locating an agent that had previously been bolted.

Ruth Chambers, author of The Chinaberry Album
A soulmate among editors, Adair Lara’s skill elevates prose to its highest potential. Her expert editing resonates through every sentence, paragraph and page. The end result is equivalent to a college course in creative writing. I have no doubt that my manuscript has reached the finalist stage in a novel contest only because of her thorough editing. With Adair as your editor, the only way is up.

David Gottfried, author of Greed to Green
Without Adair’s guidance, sharp wit, coaching, seasoned interviewing skills, succinct editing and experienced counsel, there is no way that my 2003 memoir would ever have been published. She pushed me to find the best within myself and beyond. I recommend her highly.

Tanya Taskila
That was the best $200 I ever spent. I love the path you put me on; my vision is so much clearer. I’m so inspired to get back to work.

Peggy Kennedy, author of Approaching Neverland
Hey Adair: Hope you got my gushing call the other day. I LOVE what you’ve done for my book in too many ways to mention, but I’ll name just a few:

  • Father Hecht approached our circle “as though afraid we might rise like a flock of startled birds and fly against the walls and windows”
  • The title for the chapter including my green Volkswagen and Sue’s having the RR waiting for Paul and me at our wedding (love the way you tied the whole thing together!)
  • Joan as the little Who driving Miss Scarlet and nabbing a handsome boy (can’t find the phrase, but it made me laugh hard). Also makes the Chapter title “Who’s Zoomin Who” much more fun
  • The fact that you somehow knew that Mom smoked Benson & Hedges
  • The image you added of Joan and Mom feeding babies pablum in side-by-side high chairs
  • Simplifying everything down to what it needed to be
  • Keeping all the good stuff and weeding out the rest

Marie Estorge, author
Adair’s classes were so helpful in finding the through line of the story of Storkbites: A Memoir (2003)—she taught me to show not tell and make each scene jump off the page. She also suggested that I shorten title from Storkbites And Angel Kisses to just Storkbites. She was right.


4 Responses to Book Consulting

  1. Marcia Goodman says:

    Hi Adair,
    I was in your workshop on the 19th at Book Passage but had to leave early. I was intrigued by the idea of meeting with you one on one about my possible childhood/coming of age memoir. As I said, I’ve written several versions (two fictional versions, one memoir version, plays…). I’ve just begun another version and am wondering about the best use of my time (and money). Does it make sense for me to meet with you now or should I wait until I have some pages to show you? I’m undergoing chemotherapy for a difficult cancer I’ve had on and off for 13 years, so I’m big on not wasting time. I’m an English professor at Diablo Valley College and do teach creative writing myself, so it’s not so much a matter of learning the rudimentary things (I hope anyway 🙂 ). It’s more about finding my arc, my events, and what would be interesting to a reader. Please let me know what you think might make sense. Thanks, Marcia

  2. Adair,

    I just found this.Wrote at another site. Being obsessive and insecure and very interested in working with you, I write again, briefly, to say I’m
    working on memoir and looking for help.

    About the time after being in hospital (for nervous breakdown in l962-year in hospitals- four in all).

    I am reading your book “Naked, Drunk, and Writing” and it’s the best text on memoir I’ve seen.

    So, here I am writing–tersely–since other note was verbose.

    You charge $l00 an hour, yes? Can do by e-mail/phone. I live outside of
    Washington,DC. Wish I didn’t. Either NYC (my love) or San Francisco, (So
    beautiful) would be better,but husband works here and I do also.
    Am 72, work FT as psychotherapist for depressed/abused women.

    Write all the time/published some/modest/and have addiction for books, pens, paper, and notebooks. Staples my favorite store. I dream of inceasing my ballpoint pen collection.I can be more violent with a red pen and black ink.

    Thank you for writing “Naked, Drunk, and Writing.”

    claire Holcomb-Drapkin
    definitely a writer/either curse or gift

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