DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine has always said she wants to be an author. She’s never published anything. Recently, she presented me with a manuscript that she says she has been working on for years. It reads a bit like a memoir, but I do not think it is very good. The thoughts are not coherent. What do I say to her? I have written a little bit here and there, but I am no editor. I don’t really know how to help her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings. What do I say to someone who is so passionate, but who really doesn’t have the chops to do it? -- Wannabe Writer
DEAR WANNABE WRITER: Unless you have the power to publish a book, do not assume that you have the authority to determine whether your friend has the chops to be an author. Table that thought.
Beyond that, you can recommend that your friend take a class or participate in a writer’s workshop. These days, there are specific workshops designed for people who want to write memoirs, so she can get specific if she likes. It can be both helpful and like a splash of cold water in your face to sit with a group of fellow writers and share your work. In those settings, you receive constructive criticism, often guided by a group leader -- often a professional writer or editor. In that environment, your friend may gain the ability to refine her writing and learn how to tell her story.
Further, because of the advent and popularity of self-publishing, your friend can choose to publish her book on her own. You should encourage her to get as much professional support as she can so that she strengthens her craft, thereby making her final product as good as it can be.