Manuscript Critiques

**In early 2021, I will take a hiatus from manuscript consultations to concentrate on the launch of Body of Stars. Please feel free to contact me in May 2021 or thereafter to inquire about a critique. Please also see updated rates below.**

As a writer and editor with more than 15 years of professional experience, I specialize in critiquing book-length fiction and creative nonfiction manuscripts. My close read will consider plot, character development and motivation, pacing, structure, clarity, and more. This critique provides objective, thoughtful consideration of how a writer can improve his or her manuscript and make it more attractive to literary agents and publishers.

I critique book-length manuscripts in the following genres: general/mainstream fiction, literary fiction, memoir, upmarket fiction, women’s fiction, short story collections, personal essay collections, young adult (YA) fiction, fantasy/magical realism, and humor. I may also take on clients writing thrillers, romance, erotica, and some science fiction on a case-by-case basis. All prospective clients will be asked to provide a brief description of the manuscript and its genre, a short sample, and a list of goals for both the manuscript and the critique.

I do not critique poetry manuscripts, mysteries, horror, detective novels, technical manuscripts, graphic novels, or children’s books.

Please note that I am selective in the manuscripts I take on to ensure the work is a good match for my skill set and that I can provide the best possible critique.

I will read your manuscript closely, making in-text comments as I proceed, and craft a critique of at least three single-spaced pages to discuss areas of improvement including plot, structure, pacing, character development and motivation, language/style, and clarity. My comments are provided on a holistic level to help you reconsider your work and improve it. We will also schedule a meeting (30-60 minutes via Zoom or phone) to discuss my suggestions and address your questions.

I charge the following flat-rate fees for book-length manuscript critiques:

  • Manuscripts from 30,000 to 60,000 words: $1,000
  • Manuscripts from 60,001 words to 90,000 words: $1,500
  • Manuscripts from 90,001 words to 110,000 words: $2,000
  • Manuscripts from 110,001 words to 125,000 words: $2,500
  • Please note that I do not critique manuscripts over 125,000 words.
  • For consultations on individual short stories, essays, or novellas, contact me directly to discuss rates.

Rates are current as of 2021 and are based on payment via check. Paypal payments will incur a surcharge of 2.9% plus .30 per transaction.

I work with a basic contract that establishes the fees, timeline, and services. All rights to the manuscript and future financial earnings remain solely the author’s. Clients pay 50% of my flat-rate fee upfront and the final 50% at the conclusion of my work. Generally, I am able to complete the manuscript critique within four weeks of receiving your initial fee, contract, and manuscript. I am comfortable reading and critiquing an electronic version of your manuscript, which eliminates printing/postage fees.

My Credentials
I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. My debut novel, Body of Stars, is forthcoming from Dutton, an imprint of Penguin. My novels-in-progress have also garnered a full scholarship to the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, a place at Yaddo, a spot at the Art Omi: Writers residency, recognition in the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, recognition from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and have been excerpted in Ohioana Quarterly.

I have an MFA in fiction from Bowling Green State University, where I received a Devine Fellowship; I am the editor-in-chief of Gordon Square Review, the former fiction editor of Mid-American Review, and a contributing editor of Cherry Tree; and I lead writing workshops at Literary Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Public Library, and various conferences. I’ve published in dozens of prestigious literary journals, including Kenyon Review, The Sun, The Master’ Review, Ninth Letter, Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row, Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Portland Review, Tampa Review, Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, and many more. My debut short story collection, published by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, won the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize as selected by Robert Olen Butler as well as a national gold IPPY.

I’ve published nonfiction in national magazines including Poets & Writers, The Writer, Cat Fancy, and Equus, and online in The Offing and The Rumpus. I previously worked as an award-winning senior editor of a Penton Media (now Informa) trade magazine. I’ve been a member of various writing groups over the last fifteen years and have a wide range of experience critiquing book-length fiction and nonfiction manuscripts.

“Laura understood the scope and objective of my writing better than I did. She approached her edits with thorough thoughtfulness, humor, and most important—amazing writing skills. She is, quite simply, the best editor with whom I’ve ever worked.” —Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

“Laura is a friendly, down-to-earth editor and a sympathetic reader. Her enthusiasm and honesty, along with her insightful suggestions, gave me the support I needed to continue editing my manuscript.” (memoir critique)

“Laura’s expertise as an editor and reader helped me become a better writer, no question. She takes great pains to understand the essence of each individual piece, as well as the author’s vision, and incorporates that understanding into every comment or suggestion she makes. Her feedback is honest, constructive, and heartfelt. It doesn’t hurt that she’s hardworking, personable and easy to work with.” (fiction critique)

“Laura Maylene Walter’s edits are the perfect balance of both big-picture ideas and attention on the sentence level. I send my work to Laura every time I am stuck, and there is always something in her feedback that helps me resolve the issue troubling that particular piece. Laura is always generous in her comments, and I always feel as if she has dedicated time and attention to her feedback and suggestions.” (memoir critique)


Q: Do I really need to pay someone to read and critique my manuscript?

A: No. Many first-time authors achieve publication without paying for editorial services or manuscript consultations. With that said, writing is a craft that takes many years to master. Spending those years reading, writing, revising, joining writing groups, attending conferences, or otherwise devoting yourself to the craft is essential. I always encourage aspiring writers to seek out writing groups, find like-minded readers, and develop friendships with fellow writers who are willing to give and receive critiques, all of which can be accomplished for free. However, that is often a challenge. Finding a writing group that’s a good fit, or writers who share your aesthetic and/or ability level, can take a long time. Many writers therefore seek out teachers, classes, conferences, or private consultations for additional assistance.

That’s where I come in. I can offer objective feedback that stems from my years of experience as a writer and editor. I’ve critiqued countless book-length manuscripts and I’m a published author, an editor, a freelance writer, a writing instructor, and of course an avid reader. I can provide a professional perspective on your work to help you take it to the next level.

Q: What exactly am I getting when I pay your flat-rate fee, and why should I hire you?

A: You’ll receive my years of experience as a writer, editor, and instructor. In addition to the significant time I spend reading and critiquing your manuscript, you’ll receive the benefit of my knowledge about the publishing industry and its challenges and realities. I strive to be helpful, transparent, honest, and fair throughout our working relationship. My rates are extremely competitive.

Q: After you critique my manuscript and I make the changes, will my book be ready to sell to a major publisher?

A: Unfortunately, this is not a guarantee I can make—or that any reputable editorial consultant can make. I don’t offer my services as insurance that your book will be published. Aside from a few rare exceptions, there are no shortcuts in the publishing world. Many authors write multiple books before publishing their debut through a major publisher. Many authors spend years working on one book and revising it multiple times. My services are not offered as a direct line to publication but rather as one helpful step along the way in a lengthy process that takes patience, dedication, and hard work on the part of the author. When you hire me, you’ll receive objective, professional feedback that can help you take your manuscript to the next level. Think of these services as another way to invest in your writing education and growth.

Q: Will you rewrite or entirely restructure my book for me?

A: In short, no. My comments are meant to provide a broader critique of the work and to help guide writers to initiate revisions on their own. I’m here to provide professional insight to allow you to take the work to the next level. View my services as a useful tool to help you improve and grow as a writer, not the final step in your process to publication.

Q: Will you fix all the typos and grammatical errors in my manuscript?

A: My critiques provide insight into how to strengthen a manuscript and improve it so it stands a better chance at one day attracting attention from editors or agents. While I do my best to point out grammatical errors and typos in your work, this type of critique does not entail comprehensive proofreading or line editing. Often, I’ll point out an error once to call your attention to it; it’s expected that you will make this correction throughout the rest of the manuscript.

Q: Do you offer proofreading and line editing services?

A: Rarely, and I consider this type of work on a case-by-case basis. I find that many writers who seek freelance editorial services benefit most from a manuscript critique.

Q: Can you review my query letter or show me how to get an agent?

A: Depending on your needs, we may be able to discuss your query letter during our one-hour consultation as part of your critique. At that time, I can also answer general questions about finding an agent or publisher and provide some additional advice. For more in-depth assistance, we can arrange additional paid services at a fair rate.

Q: Do you offer ghostwriting/co-writing services?

A: No, I do not take on ghostwriting or co-writing projects.