Interview with Lorin Oberweger, Manuscript Consultant

A few weeks ago, I blogged about working with Manuscript Consultants and promised you interviews with two of these professionals. You can find Eric Elfman's interview here. This week, it's my great pleasure to feature Lorin Oberweger.

I met Lorin a year and a half ago at one of the workshops she directs with agent Donald Maass. Lorin edited a section of my work for the workshop. The moment I saw her comments, I knew I could learn something from her. I have, and yet I know I still have so much more to learn from her. Lorin is like that.

Lorin provides incredible, detailed notes on every level of story development. She's a pro, and a warm, supportive person who genuinely loves helping writers grow. I feel very fortunate to have met such a bright and caring person.

So, without further ado, I give you Lorin Oberweger.

1) Tell us a little bit about your writing credentials and/or how you decided to become a Manuscript Consultant:
I pretty much sprang from the womb with a purple pen in one hand and a dictionary in the other. "Ouchy" for my poor mom, of course, but it set me on the path I’ve traveled happily since.
Seriously, I’ve been an avid reader and writer since childhood and have been fortunate enough to be well published in nonfiction, short fiction, and poetry, as well as racking up a number of nicely compensated longer form ghostwriting projects.
I worked for magazines and newspapers all through high school and college and then as editor for a couple of small presses after I finished my education. From there, I became involved in the Writers Retreat Workshop, learning all about story and character development from the inestimable Gary Provost. After his passing, I became editorial director of that workshop and eventually also moved into teaching the master classes for returning students.
In 1995, I started my own editorial services business, Free Expressions, which means I’ve been at this for about fifteen years now! During that time, I met literary agent Donald Maass and convinced him to take his “breakout novel” concepts on the road, first as weekend seminars then as a weeklong intensive. I couldn’t be more proud of all the work I do, and having the opportunity to sit in on forty-plus workshops with Don, as well as almost twenty years of other workshops, has absolutely resulted in a deep understanding of story and character development. It’s like having the opportunity to get my MFA several times a year!

2) Can you describe some of your services?
My bottom line philosophy is that I try to empower, educate, and support writers in any way that makes the most sense for them, given where they are on their particular journey.
In less esoteric terms, this takes the form, generally, of either one-on-one story development workshops, where I travel to a writer’s home turf (or they come to me) and spend a long weekend engaged in intensive story and character development work OR more straightforward manuscript editing, which includes both a line-by-line component and a larger developmental/structural evaluation. My focus, in either case, is on helping writers create rich, compelling stories that will find favor in the old literary marketplace.

3) What kinds of genres do you specialize in, if any? Also, do you have a favorite genre you like to read, outside of your work?
My genres of expertise, more or less in order: Adult or YA literary/mainstream; speculative (fantasy/SF/urban fantasy/magical realism, etc); mystery, suspense, thriller; and some historical, romance, or inspirational works.
I guess that’s just about everything, isn’t it? Truly, I really judge on a case-by-case basis, with my decision primarily based on how effective I think I can be for the writer in question.

4) Who is your favorite client? (kidding. I'll answer this one myself.)
That depends; who is your favorite editor? ;-)
Good one, Lorin.... ok, so for real:
4) What is the most satisfying aspect of helping writers with their craft/manuscripts?
Sheesh, how much space have you got? The most satisfying aspect of helping writers is, of course, having the opportunity to track their progress and—often—their success. Knowing I played a small but--I like to think--vital part in helping someone achieve his or her creative dreams—it really doesn’t get better than that.
Secondarily, it is an absolutely amazing experience to provide an answer or bit of insight that prompts a writer’s tremendous leap forward in his or her project. That feeling of seeing the lights come on, of engendering absolutely palpable excitement on a writer’s part: it just makes me ridiculously giddy. And so, so honored.

5) Free advice! Can you tell us what the best advice is for a starting writer?
It surprises me that this isn’t 1,000% intuitive, but apparently it’s not. READ. Read, read, read, read, read. Read everything—in your genre of choice and outside of it. Not only read for your edification but read to support the industry you hope will employ you someday!

I can say with absolute certainly that I have NEVER read a publishable manuscript from a writer who claims “not to read.” Not once in twenty years.

Other bits: A) REALLY learn the difference between “show” and “tell,” which is really the difference between demonstrating something in a way that creates an immersive experience for your reader and simply summarizing things in a way that creates passivity on their parts. B) REALLY learn how to create shapely, effective scenes in which a character pursues a concrete goal and meets obstacles along the way. And, at the risk of seeming self-serving: C) Invest in your education and your success. Attend workshops and conferences, buy and read writing books, hire editing professionals when and if it makes sense to do so. Treat your writing life like a start-up business with your primary concern being its long-term success.

Thanks for the questions, Veronica, and congrats on YOUR success!

You're so, so welcome, Lorin! Couldn't have done it without ya!

Find out more about Lorin on her website:


Great interview--and blog. Lorin always has something worthwhile to say--and learn from. Cheers on your writing success, Veronica. (I'm here via Maass Destruction.)

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