Novel Consultation with Leslie LehrLL#79authorphoto

This is the best time in history to be writing a book. Why? Because there are many routes to publication. And Hollywood is buying books. But if you want to rise above the crowd, you need a polished, professional manuscript. That means you need professional guidance. 

Award winning author and and essayist for  Writers Digest, Time, Newsweek and the New York Times Modern Love column, Leslie Lehr, has over twenty years of experience mentoring, consuting and as a developmental editor.   She has taught at Truby’s Writers Studio, the Writers Program, and privately, working with emerging writers as well as agent referrals in multiple genres.  Leslie has helped shape stories that became USA Today and Amazon bestellers, People Magazine’s Book of the Week, Pen nominees, Library Guild and Indie First Winners.  

Leslie understands the craft as well as the artistic struggles since she is both a produced screenwriter and the author of four novels, three nonfiction books, and the current pop culture memoir, A Boob’s Life, named to the 2023 Great Group Reads by the Women’s National Book Association and in development by Salma Hayek as a comedy series for HBO.   

Known as an expert in story structure, Leslie will help you strengthen your novel or memoir from your first idea to your final draft. 

  • Hook Your Reader from Page One 
  • Enhance the Narrative Drive 
  • Build Characters that Readers Will Root For 
  • Strengthen Your Plot
  • Polish Your Prose 
  • Enjoy the Process 

Contact LESLIE LEHR at (put “TWS” in subject line). 


1. Hourly Consultation

Ideal for translating your idea into a strong story or solving specific challenges.

You do indeed have x-ray story vision! I am so grateful and glad I found you!!!!  – Joni Rendon, Novel Destinations, Writers Between the Covers

It was wonderful talking with you and gosh, I feel so much better about this project! – Tessa Koller, Heart on My Sleeve

2. Jump Start
Do you have a story idea, but need the tools to begin?  Leslie’s most popular package of hours provides both analysis and feedback to set you on the right track.  She will hep determine your goals, develope your premise, and shape your story with a powerful structure.
  • Step one: Study materials – from a synopsis, step breakdown to properly formatted manuscript – up to 25 pages.
  • Step two: Share opportunities to strengthen your story and suggest assignments to apply solutions
  • Step three: Review your update work to make sure you are on track, and share recordings of the discussion for future reference.


3. Complete Manuscript Breakdown

Leslie sets the gold standard for developmental editing, saving writers months of fruitless revisions with her focus on story structure combined with a deep knowledge of advance prose techniques.  Often referred by agents for confidential clients around the world, she is known for X-ray vision that goes beyond pointing out weakness.  She provides detailed, practical tips for helping you bring your vision to life.

This service, based on word count, incudes a discussion of your goals, study of existing materials, a detailed written evaluation of your manuscript with a potential outline for the next draft, line notes with explanations of how and when to apply specific techniques, and a follow-up phone call that can be recorded for future reference.

Leslie played a huge role in mining the jewel facets of my manuscript…helping me excavate and strengthen momentum and plotline. The result? My new novel landed in a dream home.”– Katherine Vaz,Above the Salt, Flatiron Books,People Magazine “Book of the Week” November 2023

Without her incredible focus and attention, I seriously doubt my memoir would have been published. I would return over and over to Leslie. –Leslie Schwartz,The Lost Chapters

Leslie took my sprawling, fitfully promising manuscript to a new and propulsive structure with rising stakes and characters that really mattered. –Desson Thompson, formerWashington Postfilm critic and presidential speechwriter

A master class in good writing. Leslie told me specifically how I might fix things. But she never imposed on me what I “must” do. Best money I ever spent –Brad David,This Happy Wicked World

4. Query Letters

When your manuscript or book proposal is ready, this is the sales tool you need. With decades of experience in this unique format, Leslie write query letters that open the doors.

Wow! Bold! Thanks so much! And so great that you made up the name “literary libretto.” – O-Lan Jones

Brilliant query! Wow. I’ll refer all my students to you. — Lisa Doctor, Writing Instructor, novelist

Your query is GENIUS. After speaking with you, it is obvious why you are so skilled at writing these letters; they perfectly reflect your vibrance, sharp instincts, sensitivity and soulfulness. Shauna Brittenham, Alaya Naturals

Contact LESLIE LEHR at (put “TWS” in subject line).

With a B.A. and a student Emmy from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Lehr is a popular podcast guest and panelist at literary and film conferences around the country. She’s a member of the Authors Guild, WGA, PEN, AWP, and the Women’s Leadership Council of Los Angeles.

For more about Leslie Lehr, her books and consulting services, go to

Truby photo - wLeslie at B&N                                                   It’s All About the Narrative Drive

by Leslie Lehr

“Narrative drive” is a favorite expression of agents, who need to see the engine that drives the story forward. Literally, what propels the narrative? My latest novel, What A Mother Knows, is a textbook example of the importance of narrative drive in today’s fiction marketplace.

In this article I’d like to talk about three techniques that turned my novel from a work of literature sitting on the shelf to a real page-turner that sold to a major publisher. Those techniques are:

1. Figuring out the right genres through which to tell the story

2. Breaking the story down into a scene list so that each scene is necessary and builds on the scenes that came before

3. Sequencing the reveals so the story picks up speed as it approaches the end

What A Mother Knows started out as a literary masterpiece – or so I thought. I wrote it twenty pages at a time for my thesis project when I earned my MFA. The story is about a woman who wakes up from a deadly car accident only to find she is accused of murder and her daughter, the only one who knows what happened, is gone. It was fun playing with the prose, and the lead character was a very different person before and after the accident. So I devised two story lines that alternated between past and present until they met up at the end.

The result was dark and angsty with fun flips of point of view, and I loved it. But my writer friends had trouble remembering the details from one storyline to the next. My agent wasn’t overwhelmed with it either. So I put it aside to write a quick commercial novel, Wife Goes On, which I sold from the outline along with a screenplay on the same concept. But I couldn’t let go of this story. So I decided to rewrite it with intense narrative drive to make it more exciting and more accessible to readers and publishers – a marriage of commercial and literary fiction.

The first technique was figuring out the right genres with which to tell the story, since genre has more effect on narrative drive than any other decision you make. There are a lot of elements that tell you the best genres for your particular story, but the first one I look for is the desire line of the hero. My hero’s main goal was to uncover a mystery: this woman was desperate to find her daughter and to discover what really happened that fateful day. That meant my novel was primarily a detective story. She also had everything to risk, which made it a thriller. And the story was set within the family, which added family drama as well.

Time for the wrecking ball. I started by smashing the story apart to make a new scene list, because the scene list is the clearest view of the architecture of the story. With the scene list, the bones of the novel are not hidden behind description and dialogue.

Then I put the scenes in the proper structural order. The main story had to be a present time page-turner of a woman relentlessly chasing her goal. I combined past scenes that had the same character having a revelation and used flashbacks only to help the character take action in the present. By reordering, combining, and eliminating scenes that didn’t support the goal, the story got stronger. Each character’s motivation was clearer, so the plot got thicker.

But there was still one more step to accomplish. Especially in a detective story, the revelations need to build and come at a progressively faster pace. So I constructed a revelation sequence, a list of every reveal in the story. I was able to change the order of revelations so they got bigger and came faster. Boom, boom, boom!

I thought I was all done. But making the sale always has detours where you have to be able to adjust. My agent loved the new story but asked me to develop the medical and legal themes. So I revised it again. Sure enough, my agent sold the book.

But my new editor asked me to take out 100 pages. Of course, you can’t just lop off 100 pages of a tightly woven tale, so I went back to the wrecking ball and broke it down, scene by scene, one more time. Again, I made a list of the revelations, to make sure the narrative drive was as intense as it could be. The editor loved the book.

Writers are fond of saying, “Writing is rewriting.” Wrong. Writing is rewriting with a plan, and that plan is all about increasing narrative drive. Ask any book agent; it’s what sells your novel.