I'm offering professional critiques of short stories, novellas and novels; I can critique entire or partial manuscripts. I will critique speculative fiction: works that fall somewhere in the realm of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I will also look at paranormal fiction, but bear in mind that I am not a romance reader.

I have a lot of experience as a critiquer. I'm a graduate of the Clarion workshop and for several years I've directed the Context Writing Workshops. Since January 2010, I've been an adjunct faculty member in Seton Hill University's MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction; my job is to help MFA students turn their works-in-progress into market-ready novels.

I used to be an editor for the prozines HMS Beagle and Strange Horizons, and I published Dark Planet for seven years. I know what helps grab the attention of a weary slush reader.

To date, I've made over 80 short fiction sales, over 50 poetry sales, and three professional novel sales. My work has won the Bram Stoker Award and has been selected for the LOCUS Recommended Reading List.

I will evaluate the content and craft of your story, chapter, or novel with an eye to making it market-ready. I will flag grammatical errors, misspellings, and language problems and give examples on how to fix them. However, this will not be intensive copy-editing. I will make suggestions for improvements, and may in some cases present you with alternatives, but I will not re-write your prose.

I prefer to work with Word .docs because I can use the Track Changes feature to make editorial comments directly in the file; if you prefer to send a hard-copy manuscript, I can make edits directly on the pages. You will be responsible for paying for the return postage.

In addition to the file comments, I will send you a page (or more) of overall commentary on your work that covers the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript and my suggestions for improvements; the length of my commentary will be proportional to the length of your manuscript. 

I will be looking at:

Manuscript Basics: Your formatting, punctuation, grammar competency, dialog tags, spelling, etc. In short, all that nitpicky stuff you need to take care of before you send your manuscript out.

The Story Premise: Is the idea/concept of your story original, compelling and marketable? If not, how can it be improved?

Plot: Is your work strongly plotted? Are there some holes you might need to fill?

Pacing: Does your story move along at a good pace, or is it dragging (or leaving your readers behind)?

Point of View: Are you telling your story through the eyes of the right character(s)? Is your POV consistent?

Characterization: Are your characters well-rounded, sympathetic, compelling, and believable?

Dialog: Is your dialog interesting? Does it help build characterization and move the story along?

Style: Is your writing style effective? Is it exciting to the reader?

World Building and Setting: Is your setting described in appropriate detail? Is the world you've created for your characters vivid, interesting, and believable?

Beginnings, Middles, and Endings: The opening of your story or novel is crucial in getting the attention of an agent, editor, or reader. Middles can get muddled and saggy. The ending is crucial in providing a satisfying reading experience. If you know you're having particular trouble in one of these areas -- for instance, you've got an opening, and you know how your novel will end, but you are having a hard time getting there -- I can help.

My critique of your manuscript will be subjective, of course, but I promise you I will give my honest assessment of your work. It will ultimately be up to you to act on my suggestions for revision, and I cannot promise you that you will sell your revised manuscript to any particular market. There are too many variables for me or any other critiquer to make such a promise.

If you're interested, take a look at my website for details. Cheers!

This is excellent synchronicity, because I came here today to post a call for submissions. You would be wise to avail yourself of Lucy-S' offer in advance!

Hand-Picked Words is a new small press with a twist. We publish a monthly book lovers' box containing excellent writing of all sizes. It's like a CSA or farm box: the farmer produces tomatoes and pears and mint, and people sign up to get a regularly scheduled box of whatever amazing organic goodies are coming out of the farm. Community-supported literature.

Each novel earns two dollars per subscriber; shorter pieces receive a dollar. A month after the box goes out, pieces are added to our online store as well as to Amazon and other digital booksellers. Authors receive 85% royalties on pieces sold through our store, and 85% minus the distributor's fees on pieces sold elsewhere.

This is what's known as a Pretty Good Deal. The current downside is that we are soliciting material pre-launch. That is: until our about-to-start Kickstarter gets up to speed, we won't have a strong idea of how many subscribers we'll be starting out with. On the other hand, you get to keep the rights to your work. And, unlike most publishing deals, you don't have to do all your own marketing: a significant portion of the proceeds of each subscription goes toward marketing your work.

Initially, all boxes will be digital; as we determine interest, we look forward to also producing a deluxe monthly box with nicely-printed works.

What are we looking for?

Each box is loosely arranged around a theme. The first one will be New Beginnings. Feel free to be creative in how your work relates to this theme.

We are looking for COMPLETE novels, creative non-fiction, personal essays, memoirs, short stories, poetry, and graphic novels. Do not send incomplete work; it will be returned to you with a sad-face stamp. Work should be compelling, and interesting to a wide audience. Genre writing is totally fine, but all work - no matter what kind - must have strong plot, setting, characters, and style. This is fairly broad, but that's the nature of a subscription box: we're aiming at readers with eclectic tastes, who may have favorite genres but are willing to try anything so long as it's interesting and well-written.

No fanfiction (copyright reasons); no erotica (so many reasons). We do accept some children's books and YA.

Yes, your old write-ups may "count". Keep in mind, however, that what seems like fantastic quality on E2 may seem less powerful on the printed page. Please PARTICULARLY keep this in mind with poetry. Poetry demands higher standards than other pieces, because it is so concentrated; shortfalls that would be completely acceptable in a longer piece become extremely glaring in a half-page poem.

If your work has nothing to do with "New Beginnings", submit it anyway. It may turn out to be a great fit for a future box. Please allow a month for our response, although at this early stage we may be able to respond more quickly.

Seriously Though

You guys are awesome and quirky, the perfect fit. Please throw whatever you like at booklovers@handpickedwords.com and we will see what sticks.

I'm sure I SHOULD be asking for professional cover letters and whatnot, but I don't give a damn. Your work will speak for itself. If I find that we need that stuff, in time, we'll implement it. Jot something nice in the email ("I LOV TO WRIT PLZ CHECK MY ATTACHMINTS") and send it off.

If you know anybody elsewhere who might be interested, please pass this message on. Interested parties can check us out, and download a free sample box or free individual sample pieces, at http://handpickedwords.com. You can also pre-order the first real box there.

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