Minnesota Writer Teaches Online Book Editing Class | news

SARANAC LAKE – Once an author has written a story, what comes next can be nebulous.

Nicole Helget, a Minnesota-based award-winning author, teacher, editor-in-chief of Minneopa Valley Press, and manuscript consultant, assists authors in “Editing The Whole Book: Narrative Arc & Structure,” a four-part, week-long online course held Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m 12:00 p.m. from February 4th.

Offered by the Adirondack Center for Writing, this course is for fiction or nonfiction writers who have written all or most of their book and now need guidance on revising their book’s structure/arc.

Helget is the author of The Summer of Ordinary Ways (Borealis Press/Minnesota Historical Society), The Turtle Catcher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Stillwater (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Horse Camp (Egmont), Wonder at the Edge of the World” (Little, Brown and Company), “The End of the Wild” (Little, Brown and Company) and the forthcoming essay collection “Love on the Wintertry Prairie” (University of Minnesota Press). .

As an editor of The New York Times Editor’s Pick and People Magazine’s Critic’s Choice, she has received dozens of starred reviews and grants for her work in nonfiction and fiction, particularly on climate change and water quality.

She has written dozens of children’s non-fiction books, published under various pseudonyms, and also writes books for clients.


Helget identifies as a working class rural writer and writes what she knows in southern Minnesota and beyond.

“That’s my sweet spot, and it’s inevitable because that’s who I am as a person,” she said.

“I still live on a farm and we are still affected by the weather and seasonal changes every day. We live very, very close to nature and I think that’s probably the main difference between country and suburban/urban writers. It’s not that one is better than the other. It’s just something I see in my editing is that writers who live among people tend to be really good at writing about interpersonal conflict in their writing. They really, really develop characterization and one-on-one storylines really, really well, and that makes sense because they’re interacting with people all the time.”

Rural writers, and she knows they generalize, tend to work well on people and nature, or descriptions of environments.

“And again, it’s not like one is better than the other,” she said.

“It’s just that they’re different.”


Helget’s online course is a lifeline for writers in the pre-publication waters.

“I’ve been working with writers for about 10 years, a decade,” she said.

“I work as a manuscript consultant. I work as a development editor. Sometimes I work as a personal coach in writing. I feel like there are many options and support to write the book, develop the craft and finish the first manuscript. There are courses for that everywhere. So what struck me is that once that first draft is done, it’s like a black hole.”


What does an author do with the first draft? What is the next step to get editing support?

“Even in the editing departments, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people who do icing, word-shifting, like poetry, and we need all those things too, but you shouldn’t icing them before the cake is baked “, she said.

“This class is more like baking a cake. Let’s go back to the beginning and wonder how the physical journey is layered. What is personal transformation? Because every single book, no matter what genre you write in, has these two elements. All writers try to figure out the relationship between some kind of physical journey and a character’s personal transformation. And we will do that.”

Online entrants must be “in deep stages of a book-length story with at least one major story arc.”

“You almost need a first draft,” she said.

“One of the many things I noticed about people getting their first draft ready is that they really are ready from the start. You are good at building. The first act takes far, far too long. and sometimes I think writers run out of steam on that third act. It’s quite amazing because you can literally see the authors telling each other the story in the first act and sometimes we look at these pages and wonder if we really aren’t already writing part of the resolution.

“And sometimes when we have it, you just pick it up, move it to the third act, give it a little massage, and then when you close the book you have to have these two acts looking at each other. Like the first act asks questions. The third act is the act that answers them. So they’re like they’re talking to each other.”


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