Services & Approach


I provide the following developmental and substantive editing services* to fiction writers:


Reality check and next steps

You’ll get this from me no matter which path you follow, but maybe at this point in your book’s development it’s all you need: an experienced, deeply focused reader (unrelated to you by marriage, blood or friendship) to read your manuscript and respond to it honestly and constructively. I’ll read your book closely, then compose a detailed letter assessing its strengths and weaknesses and suggesting specific revisions and larger revision strategies to help you prepare the manuscript for submission, or for a full developmental edit.

[If after completion of this step you’d like to continue to a full developmental edit, I’ll be happy to provide you an estimate and schedule for that remaining work.]


Line edit + marginal notes + editorial letter

I’ll read your manuscript once purely as a reader—no notes, no edits—and then double back to begin my editorial pass.

Why? Because I believe the experience your readers will enjoy bears only a passing resemblance to an editor’s inch-by-inch, stop-and-start progress through your book. Maybe some big-brained editors can pull it off, but I’m pretty certain that skipping right to analysis and prescription would blind me to larger structural issues, as well as to hitches in the story’s pacing and in maintaining what John Gardner calls its “vivid and continuous dream.”

Throughout the manuscript, you’ll get a record (via Microsoft Word’s “Track Changes” tool) of every question, observation, concern and idea that occurs to me during my second, much more analytical pass. I’ll also dive into the text itself and make every adjustment I think should be considered. “Track Changes” will be turned on, so you can simply hit “Reject” if a suggested edit doesn’t work for you.

When I’ve finished my editorial pass, I’ll compose an editorial letter of anywhere between five and (if I really get going) a dozen single-spaced pages containing my overall assessment of the book’s strengths, challenges, and unrealized opportunities.


Why “Maxwellian” Editorial Services?

Because I’ve erected a little mental shrine to guide my editing efforts and placed upon it glowing, graven images of two Maxwells to light my path: the great Maxwell Perkins, editor of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and all-but-co-author of Thomas Wolfe’s best work, and The New Yorker editor (and wonderful writer) William Maxwell.

Both were the kind of editor I think most writers dream of working with: attentive, probing readers, and fully engaged, resourceful, respectful and humane partners in the enterprise of shaping and perfecting each story. I edit because I enjoy doing my best to serve those “Maxwellian” functions for my authors.

I’m not a scorched-earth editor. I enjoy my work because I find just about any story irresistible—almost never in its unedited state, but in a kind of Platonic ideal of it that springs into my head the moment I start working with it. Anything that impedes the story from realizing that potential gets flagged in the margin, targeted for an illustrative fix, or swept into my editorial letter along with suggestions for a more systemic remedy.

How do you know my “ideal” of your story is a match for yours? You don’t—but history suggests I’ll come close enough to offer suggestions worth considering. Check out my Kind Words page for others’ opinions of how close to the mark my edits generally fall.

*Along with a lot of other useful information, you’ll find good definitions of the different types of editing on the Northwest Editors Guild website. There’s also a searchable directory of the organization’s 300+ editors, in case I’m busy or just don’t feel like a perfect fit for you. [If I sound like a booster, that’s because I am. I’m a past board member. It’s a great organization.]
Maxwell Perkins
Maxwell Perkins
William Maxwell
William Maxwell