Manuscript Critiques

Distracted Writer - Critique Packages

Need help with your manuscript?

I provide critique services for writers who would like feedback on a portion of their work in progress. I work with both fiction and non-fiction authors.

What is a manuscript critique? A manuscript critique is an opportunity to have an experienced, objective professional look at your work in progress and give you feedback on large-scale issues like story arc, character, readability, and point of view – often before the work is completed, or after a first draft. A critique does not address every line of a manuscript or every paragraph, but provides big-picture feedback and themes.

For early-career or pre-published authors, critique can be a less expensive option than a full developmental edit: useful for learning writing craft and story development, as well as fixing issues in their work. 

I can also assist more established authors with specific issues such as character, pacing, story arc/structure, style, etc.

How does a critique differ from developmental editing or proofreading? Unlike proofreading or copyediting, a manuscript critique does not address grammar, punctuation, or other minor issues, except where they impact the larger story. While developmental editing deals with broad issues like plot and character, most developmental editors work with more seasoned/experienced authors to provide a cohesive edit of a completed story that is already structurally sound. I find that manuscript critiques can be helpful earlier in the process, when an author may benefit from instructional feedback as well as specific story fixes.

At what point in the process is a critique most useful? You can do a critique at any time during the writing or editing of a manuscript. In my experience, however, the ideal time for critical feedback is after you have partially or fully developed a first draft, and before you spend hours revising and fine-tuning.

What kinds of writing do you critique? I typically critique short stories and long-form fiction in all genres, as well as non-fiction texts such as biographies, memoirs, personal essays, histories, and other narratives. I also work with business, psychological, self-help, travel, humor and educational books designed for the general public.

I do not critique academic papers, medical texts, scientific or technical manuals. For poetry, please contact me to discuss.

Feedback

What kind of feedback can I expect?

My critiques include both in-line commentary and notes pages at the end of the manuscript or excerpt. The in-line comments will give you my immediate reactions to certain elements of the manuscript, and point out issues as I notice them. This provides specific examples of issues that may be written up more broadly in the notes, and also mirrors the reader’s experience for you. In the notes, I will give more generalized feedback about the overall work and information about fixing problem areas, with general suggestions about how you might go about making changes. I do not rewrite your text for you, but sometimes I might give an example of one way you could resolve an issue.

Here are the primary issues I will look for during your manuscript critique:

Fiction

  • Story Arc
  • Pace
  • Point of View
  • Plot
  • Character: strength, likability, development, realism
  • Dialogue
  • Readability
  • Voice
  • Style
  • Genre

Non-Fiction

  • Clarity
  • Readability
  • Flow
  • Overall Concept/Structure
  • Suitability for Audience
  • Adherence to Author Goals
  • Adherence to Principles of Adult Learning

What is it like to receive feedback?

If this is your first time getting professional feedback on your work, the truth is, it can be a little jarring. Unlike friends, family and even beta readers, a professional critic will not (should not) hold back from pointing out all the ways your story could be better. Even if your writing and story concept are both excellent, a good critique will shed light on imperfections and missed opportunities that can be the difference between good and great. After reading your critique, your first instinct might be to defend your work, rationalize why the critic/editor is wrong, or — in my case — curl up in the bathtub with a glass of wine and cry. Those are normal, human reactions… But they won’t make your writing better.

I encourage you to read and absorb all feedback (from me or anyone else) with an open mind, neither accepting or dismissing. Let it sink in for a day or two, preferably while your brain and body can be busy working on something else. Then come back to it and read again, considering each item’s value to your story on its own.

Also, you should know: critiques are by their nature subjective. My feedback is based on years of both formal and informal education in literature, writing and storytelling, as well as many looooong hours of being critiqued by other writers, professors, editors, and agents myself. All suggestions and reactions I have regarding your work come from that professional base of experience, but will also reflect my personal tastes, feelings, vast emotional baggage, etc.  Whenever possible, I’ll try to delineate between those things to the extent I feel it could be useful to do so. You can also use our coaching time to talk through any feedback that doesn’t sit well with you.

At the end of the day, however, remember: this is YOUR story. You’re paying for an objective, expert opinion; but only you can decide whether or how to incorporate my suggestions into your work.


“MJ’s feedback and critique were invaluable in my book writing process. She has a unique way of delivering meaningful suggestions to improve content, while also highlighting strengths. If you’re writing a book, you want MJ on your team!”
– Meghan Toups, Nonfiction Author, Holistic Psychotherapist & Wellness Coach

“Wow! Thank you so much for your quick, insightful response. It’s incredibly appreciated and you’ve helped encourage me more than you know. Not only did you generously validate my strengths, but you put into words my issues with backstory and pacing.”
– Katrina de Leon, Fiction Author

Pricing/Packages

For your convenience, I’ve developed packages based on the most popular services from my previous clients. (Please note 1 page = 250 words)

Fast First Five – $50

  • First 5 pages
  • Inline Comments
  • 1-2-page Critique Letter
  • Primary focus: Story concept, initial hook, character
  • Includes follow-up via email or 15-minute coaching session
  • Fast turnaround: typically within 2 weeks

Great Beginnings – $200

  • Up to 25 Pages
  • Inline Comments
  • 2-3-page Critique Letter
  • Primary focus on story concept, initial hook, pace, character, readability
  • Includes follow-up via email or 15-minute coaching session

The Whole Shebang – $750

  • Up to 200 Pages (50,000 words)
  • Inline Comments
  • 5-6-page Critique Letter
  • Focus on all aspects described above, including pace, style, genre, voice, etc.
  • Includes follow-up via email or 30-minute coaching session
  • Additional pages $2/each (up to 450 pages or 90,000 words)

To request a critique, please email me: mj@mjpullen.com, with a short description of your book, number of words/pages, and specific questions you may have. I will get back with you in 24 to 48 hours with a specific quote and scheduling information.

The Fine Print

To ensure I can devote the appropriate time and effort to your critique, I require a non-refundable $25 booking deposit (via PayPal invoice) at the time of scheduling, to hold your slot.* This fee is applied to your 50% deposit, due 7 days before the critique begins. The remaining balance will be billed when the critique is complete.

*Hey, stuff happens. I totally get it. If you need to reschedule your critique for any reason, let me know as far in advance as possible and we’ll work to find a mutually agreeable date if we can. If we are unable to reschedule, or if you don’t pay the 50% deposit, or you forget to send me your manuscript at the right time (don’t laugh, it happens), you’ll forfeit the $25.

**In the rare instance that I need to reschedule due to extenuating circumstances, I will do everything possible to accommodate your schedule with a new critique date. If that doesn’t work, of course, you get the $25 back, along with my profuse apologies, and probably a nice muffin basket.