A manuscript critique provides detailed, expert feedback to help you improve your novel and develop your story craft

Maybe you’ve had feedback from beta readers and now you want an objective, professional take on your manuscript. Or perhaps no other human has ever laid eyes on your story and you’re finally ready to share it with somebody (eek!). A critique is a great way to get honest feedback and discover how to strengthen your story. This service is for new or emerging authors who want a professional assessment of their children’s or YA novel and are ready to put in some hard (but rewarding) work to make the next draft the best it can be.

‘I’m seriously so glad I landed on your name in a sea of editors. Thank you for the advice, recommendations, coaching and teaching as far as the writing techniques are concerned. It’s all brilliant! I was so clueless and am very grateful to now have this information to guide my thinking.

I’m very excited about the next draft and think the direction you have proposed in most instances feel right to me. Importantly, I feel empowered by your critique and that makes me more confident that I can produce better work.

Anoshi Saretzki, YA fantasy author

Don't be scared off by the word 'critique' – I'm not a teacher marking homework or a wicked stepmother cracking the whip. I'll help make sure you absolutely love your book and get it ready for young readers who'll love it just as much. I'm your trainer in the boxing ring whispering tips between bouts. I'm always on your side and a manuscript critique is my love letter to your book and the book it could become.

What exactly is a manuscript critique?

There are four things included with a manuscript critique:

    1. Editorial letter in PDF usually between 20 and 30 A4 pages full of bird's eye feedback, recommendations and advice. I might tell you I find a character's actions unrealistic and lacking motivation, or that your first chapter would work better later in the story. I'll be covering story issues like structure, characterisation, pacing, dialogue, theme, world building, point of view, conflict and tension, consistency, suitability for audience, genre expectations and sensitivity concerns. Maybe some scenes feel flat because they lack tension, or the dialogue isn’t as natural or authentic as it could be. The point of a manuscript assessment is to discover what’s working, what isn’t and how to fix it so you can produce the best story you can and get it ready for your readers.
    2. A book map of your novel – an Excel spreadsheet overview of your story broken down scene by scene, tracking plot points, character development, timeline and theme. It’s a great way to see your entire story on the page at once and can reveal problems you might not spot otherwise, like plot holes, inconsistencies, forgotten narrative arcs and superfluous characters.
    3. My 'Spoonful of Sugar' next steps kit with a work plan and tips on processing my feedback and approaching the next stage of revisions.
    4. Personalised reading list of novels and writing craft resources I think you’d find useful based on your manuscript. I have a big library of middle grade and YA fiction as well as hundreds of books about the art of storytelling, so I'll pull out everything I think might help you tackle the issues or areas for improvement I identify.

What it's not

A manuscript assessment isn't a full edit. I won’t change or delete anything in your story, or make comments or suggestions in the margin. In fact, I won’t touch your manuscript document (other than reading it). I will write an editorial letter with all my feedback for you to read through and digest, and what you do with it is up to you! I’ll only address the story elements of your novel, not line-level or copyediting issues like language, spelling, syntax or grammar. These can be addressed by a line or copy-editor and I absolutely recommend you hire one further down the line to get your manuscript ready for publication.

I have just skimmed through your brilliant editorial critique and will follow your suggestions and recommended reading lists. I think you have been very good at steering me the right way. I don’t want our editing relationship to end yet. I still need you!

Akin Jabar, YA sci-fi author

My critiquing process

    1. First read through: I’ll read your manuscript through once without stopping to make notes. Sometimes things jump out at me that I don’t want to forget so I’ll occasionally highlight paragraphs or leave myself reminders but mostly I’m just immersing myself in the story and responding as your readers would.
    2. Plotting and scheming: This is the time I spend thinking about your story and letting it sit before starting my critique. I’ll write up some rough notes about my immediate reactions to your manuscript, like a letter to myself that helps me untangle all my thoughts and ideas and start putting my reader response into words.
    3. Read your questionnaire: At the beginning of the process I’ll send you an author questionnaire that asks you about your story, your experience and your publishing goals. I don’t read this straight away as I don’t want it to influence my initial response to your manuscript when I come to it for the first time, but I’ll read it as soon as I’ve finished reading.
    4. Update my checklist: I have a critique checklist that I customise for every manuscript I work on, and I’ll take any specific concerns from your questionnaire and drop them in. For example, if you mention you’re not sure your protagonist is likeable enough or that you struggle with your chapter endings, I’ll flag these in my checklist to ensure I address them thoroughly in my critique.
    5. Research and background reading: I like to immerse myself in the books you love so I can understand your influences and goals, so when I send you my author questionnaire I'll ask for your favourite authors and novels in your genre. When I discuss any issues of writing craft in your editorial letter, I can pull out examples from books you love to demonstrate a technique or narrative device so it’ll click for you faster.
    6. Second read through: I’ll read your manuscript again but this time I’ve got my ‘editor’ hat on, not my ‘reader’ hat. As I read, I’ll start drafting my editorial letter, pulling out passages to discuss and adding elements to my checklist to ensure I cover everything. I’ll also be building your book map as I read.
    7. Write your critique: Next I’ll turn all my jumbled notes and ideas into a long, detailed editorial letter, going through each element of story craft (like character, plot, conflict and world building) one by one. I’ll tell you what I loved (and why I loved it) and what I think needs more work, demonstrating techniques and explaining exactly how you can tackle any problem areas.
    8. Finalise your book map: I’ll map out your story scene by scene, tracking characters, plot threads, theme and more.
    9. Write your Spoonful of Sugar guide: I’ll lay out a proposed plan of action, helping you tackle your revisions in a manageable, sensible order while staying positive and optimistic.
    10. Write your recommended reading list: Last but not least, I’ll read over your critique and choose novels, craft books and articles that I think will help you tackle some of the issues I’ve flagged.

Let's get started!

I can't tell you how excited I am to read your manuscript. So, if you have middle grade or YA story that you consider to be fantasy, horror, sci-fi, mystery or just something with a hint of oddness or dash of macabre, please give me a shout – it'll make my day!

Manuscript critiques at a glance
What's the difference between a manuscript critique and a developmental edit?

A manuscript critique is a detailed assessment of your novel. You'll receive:

  1. An editorial letter
  2. A book map
  3. Next steps guide
  4. Recommended reading list

I won't edit or leave comments in your manuscript; that's a developmental edit. A developmental edit is a manuscript critique PLUS hundreds of notes left in your manuscript using MS Word's commenting feature.

Who is a critique for?

An edit is for authors who have finished writing their story and done some self-editing and are now ready to get professional feedback and advice. I only work on middle grade and YA fiction in the following genres:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • mystery
  • sci-fi
How much does it cost?

Pricing is based on your manuscript's word count:

  • Up to 60,000 words = £440 
  • 60,001 to 100,000 = £560

If your manuscript is over 100,000 words, please get in touch for a quote.

How it works 
    1. You get in touch to tell me about your book and send a sample
    2. We chat over email and if we decide we're right for each other, I confirm cost and timings (I usually deliver a critique within eight weeks of the start date)
    3. I send you an invoice for the full fee before I get started
    4. You send me your manuscript and I get going!
    5. I email you a weekly progress report (The Friday Howl) so you know everything's swell
    6. Finally, I email you the lovely things I mentioned above and hope you love them
    7. We talk via email about any questions you have or clarifications you need