‘In 2014, I took on a writing project for which my skills were at novice level, and having started under Paul’s guidance, I will get professionally published for the first time this year. His knowledge of prose style and story structure was crucial to getting me to where I wanted.’
– Kevin McGeary, short story writer
The good news: more people than ever are reading books, and more books than ever are being published. The bad news: it seems to be harder than ever for writers to get their work published.
Why? It’s complicated, but a combination of an over-supply of writers, the disappearance of small and innovative publishers, the driving-down of prices by Amazon and the impact of the internet generally have made it harder for writers to get noticed. And of course, you can only get noticed if you’ve actually finished a book – which is harder than it might sound …
For all these reasons, a lot of writers, especially (but by no means only) beginners, can find it useful to have an experienced writer and editor cast a close eye over their work and offer an honest and detailed assessment of it. Is the idea solid, and the approach? How well is it structured? Is the plot working? Do the characters convince? What about your style? What could be improved, toned down, played up? What could be done, in short, to bring your work to its full potential?
What do you offer?
I offer two services for writers. The first is one-off manuscript assessment. It’s simple: you send me your manuscript, or part of it, and I send you back a report on it, taking in all the aspects mentioned above, and possibly more. The idea is to help you bring out the best in your work, and eliminate the worst.
Alternatively, for those who would like an ongoing relationship with a writer and editor, I offer a mentoring service, which runs for either 3 or 6 months. Each month, you send me a set number of words, and I’ll offer a detailed commentary and inline notes on your work. The mentoring period will also be topped-and-tailed with two phone or Skype calls with me, in which we can discuss any aspect of your work that you’d find most useful.
Details of both of these services, and the price tags attached, can be found lower down on this page.
What qualifies you to do this?
I’ve been a writer for nearly a quarter of a century. In that time, I have published seven books, taking in fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with a wide array of publishers, ranging from global conglomerates to crowd-funded startups to independent literary houses. I have won, or been nominated for, ten different prizes for my fiction, poetry and essays, ranging from the Man Booker Prize to the Wenlock Prize for Poetry. I have worked as a writer and editor for publications as varied as The Independent, The Ecologist, OpenDemocracy and Dark Mountain.
I’ve taught on writing courses, mentored writers and lectured on writing for – amongst others – the Arvon Foundation, the Faber Academy, the Professional Writing Academy, Schumacher College, the Westcountry School of Myth and Story and Falmouth University. I’ve run my own writing and story courses, teaching in places as varied as the wilds of Dartmoor and the heart of New York City. Finally, I’ve also run my own literary movement and publishing house – the Dark Mountain Project – which has been in business, and growing in influence, for nearly a decade.
All of this gives me plenty of experience, and a good deal of perspective, on how writing works today, and how it can be taught, nurtured and improved.
How does it work?
Manuscript assessment is a one-off service, in which you send me a piece of work, and I send you one-off feedback on it, in the form of a written report and inline comments on your manuscript. There are three different options here, depending on the length of work you want feedback on. Details, and fees, are below.
Mentoring is a longer process. I offer both three- and six-month options. Both are aimed at offering ongoing commentary on an ongoing piece of work. Every month, you send me up to 10,000 words of a work-in-progress, for which you will receive detailed written feedback aimed at improving the writing as we go along. You’ll also get two phone or Skype calls of up to 30 minutes each, at the beginning and the end of the process, and we stay in touch by email throughout.
In both cases, I will deliver detailed responses to your work within a specified timeframe, which we will agree on when the process begins. My comments will be in two formats – a written report on your work, which will cover the generalities of style, plot, structure, characterisation and the like; and specific, more detailed comments on the manuscript itself, where appropriate.
Areas I focus on may include:
- Strategy: what are you writing, why are you doing it, what do you want to achieve?
- Plot, narrative and structure: how have you built the architecture of your work?
- Character development: are you inhabiting the people you write about (real or imagined)?
- Originality: are you avoiding cliches, both in what you say and how you say it?
- Description: how are you using words to present the world?
- Getting the tone right: who are you speaking to, and what do you want them to hear?
It’s worth pointing out also what I don’t offer. I’m not a copyeditor or a proofreader, so I’m not going to correct your grammar or spelling for you – though I might comment on it if it needs mentioning. I won’t, either, tell you how you can get published, or how to find an agent. My work will be purely editorial – helping you to get the best out of your writing, and helping you to realise your vision.
My services are open to both fiction and non-fiction writers; and, indeed, everyone in-between.
What’s the damage?
The fees for each service are below. Payment is upfront, via Paypal or bank transfer, though in the case of the mentoring services you can pay in monthly installments.
If you’d like to book a slot, or find out more, please send me an email by clicking here.
Manuscript assessment – up to 10,000 words: £140
Manuscript assessment – up to 30,000 words: £350
Manuscript assessment – up to 60,000 words: £500*
Personal mentoring – 3 month programme (30,000 words): £1000
Personal mentoring – 6 month programme (60,000 words): £1500
*If you have a longer manuscript you’d like assessed, please email me about it.