If your manuscript’s still a work in progress, a partial critique on your first 10,000 words will give you the tools you need to make it to the finish line with an even better story

Maybe you’re only a few chapters into your novel and want some advice and professional feedback now before you go any further. The Starter Critique can point you in the right direction, exploring areas of story craft you need to work on further or plot problems that need addressing before you write the next chapter. Or perhaps you’ve already finished your manuscript but your budget doesn’t allow a critique or developmental edit on the full word count. A partial critique will focus on the beginning of your novel and provide ideas and recommendations that you can apply to the rest of your work.

‘I don’t want our editing relationship to end yet’

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 | MG

Akin Jabar | MG sci-fi critique

When I read your story for a Starter Critique, I'll consider all the same elements that I cover in a full manuscript critique like characterisation, pacing, show vs tell and dialogue, but I'll only choose three of those areas to explore in detail in my editorial letter. As well as making this option more budget friendly than a full critique, it can also mean the feedback is less overwhelming.

I'll choose the three elements that I think need the most work in your manuscript, whether that's clarifying your main character's goal, strengthening the story's theme or working on POV shifts, and I'll cover them in detail with explanations, recommendations and examples. Or if you have areas you'd like me to feed back on, I'll focus on those. I'll include a general overview on how well your story is working and which areas might need more development, but this section will be much less detailed.

What exactly is a Starter Critique?

There are three things included with a Starter Critique:

    1. Editorial letter in PDF usually around 10 pages full of bird's eye feedback, recommendations and advice based on the first 10,000 words of your manuscript. I'll choose the three biggest areas for improvement I see in your story and discuss those in detail, and give an overview of how well you've approached other issues like genre, audience and theme.
    2. My 'Spoonful of Sugar' next steps kit with a work plan and tips on processing my feedback and approaching the next stage of the writing process.
    3. 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 Starter Critique only looks at the first 10,000 words of your manuscript, so I won't comment on anything beyond this. I also won't discuss absolutely every element of story craft in detail; I'll only focus on the three most problematic areas that I identify in your story (or that you've asked me to explore). I won’t change or delete anything in your manuscript, or make comments or suggestions in the margin. In fact, I won’t touch story (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.

My critiquing process

    1. First read through: I’ll read your first 10,000 words 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 story opening when I come to it for the first time, but I’ll read it as soon as I’ve finished reading.
    4. 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.
    5. Second read through: I’ll read your story opening 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 want to.
    6. Write your critique: Next I’ll turn all my jumbled notes and ideas into a detailed editorial letter, going through the three most important elements I've identified (like character, plot, conflict or world building) one by one. Then I'll give an overview of the story in general, tell you what I loved (and why I loved it) and what I think needs more work, giving you resources to learn more and improve your craft.
    7. Write your Spoonful of Sugar guide: I’ll lay out a proposed plan of action, helping you tackle your manuscript in a manageable, sensible order while staying positive and optimistic.
    8. 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!

Starter Critique at a glance
What's the difference between a Starter Critique and The Monster?
  • With a Starter Critique, I'll only read the first 10,000 words of your story, whereas a The Monster covers the entire manuscript
  • A Starter Critique explores only the three most important or problematic areas of your story in detail, while a The Monster will explore every element thoroughly
  • A Starter Critique is usually around 10 pages long, while The Monster is up to 40 pages
  • A Starter Critique does not include a book map worksheet, quick start guide or follow-up worksheets, while The Monster does
Who is a Starter Critique for?

A Starter Critique is ideal for authors of YA and middle grade fiction writing any of the following genres:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • mystery
  • sci-fi

It's perfect if you haven't finished your manuscript yet and want some early guidance, but it's also valuable if you have finished a draft and want feedback on the story's opening that you can apply to the rest of the manuscript without committing to a more expensive, full critique.

How much does it cost?


How it works 
    1. You get in touch to tell me about your story 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 mini critique within 6 weeks of the start date)
    3. I send you an invoice for the full fee before I get started
    4. You send me your 10,000 words 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 earlier and hope you adore them
    7. We talk via email about any questions you have or clarifications you need