Do you need help with your novel, memoir, or story collection?

Work one-on-one with a bestselling author and experienced editor and teacher.

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Get your novel in shape to send out to agents and publishers.

Whether you’re writing your first novel, or you have a few unpublished novels tucked away in a drawer, I can help you polish your book to send out to agents and publishers. If your goal is to self-publish, I can help you make sure that your book is professional so that it stands out from the thousands of independent titles released each week. I’ll look at the big picture of your novel or memoir–story structure, style, plot, characterization–and pinpoint where your book is lagging. I’ll suggest new scenes that need to be written, structural rearrangement, and specific ways to deepen character. Paying especially close attention to the first fifty pages, I’ll show you  what might prevent agents and publishers from giving your manuscript a serious read. I’ll also suggest ways to streamline the prose, tighten dialogue, and improve narrative pace.

Finding the Right Fit

Working with a book editor is a very personal process. You want to know that your novel or memoir is in good hands and that the editor will help you make your book the best it can be while honoring your distinctive voice and your vision. Whether you’re writing literary fiction, mainstream fiction, a cross-genre novel, or memoir, my goal is to help you revise your book in order to catch a publisher’s eye and keep readers turning pages. I believe that a book should be made of beautiful sentences and compelling characters, but it should also be entertaining. Unputdownable is never a bad thing.

A Very Close Read

Critiquing a novel is an intricate process, and it requires many hours of close and careful reading. That’s why I accept only a very limited number of clients–a maximum of two per month. After reading your manuscript, I will make detailed suggestions that may include new scenes that need to be added, ways to develop your characters more fully, notes on stylistic issues that are weighing down the prose, pacing concerns, how to deepen thematic and emotional resonance, and more. While many editors charge separately for line editing, I find it almost impossible not to make suggestions on how to improve the prose on a sentence-by-sentence level. Overwrought sentences can cloud the beauty of an otherwise skillful novel or story. For that reason, every critique package includes some line editing.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Fiction

Every novel presents its own challenges, and the issues I focus on in your novel will be determined by the needs that arise as I read your manuscript. However, here are some of the things we might address:

  • Tighten structure
  • Improve dialogue
  • Deepen characterization
  • Streamline descriptions
  • Find the heart of your story
  • Identify weak points in the plot
  • Crystallize the book’s theme
Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond is the author of four novels, including Golden State and the international bestseller The Year of Fog, and two award-winning story collections. She is also the editor of the anthologies Flash in the Attic: 33 Very Short Stories from Fiction Attic Press and Modern Shorts. Her stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, The Kenyon Review, The Believer, Oxford American, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Her articles on craft have appeared in Writers Digest and The Writer’s Chronicle. Michelle has taught in the MFA programs in creative writing at the University of San Francisco and California College of the Arts, and has served as Distinguished Visiting Writer at St. Mary’s College of Moraga, Bowling Green State University, and Notre Dame de Namur University. She holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she was a James Michener Fellow. She is the founder and publisher of Fiction Attic Press.
jenniferpaddockMichelle helped me enormously with my novel. She’s kind and generous, but she’s also a tough critic. By seeing things that I could not, she gave me big-picture notes on plot, character, point-of-view, and dialogue. On my manuscript, she marked where the problems were and then wrote out solutions. She also tried to make sure that the book stayed mine. She never imposed her personal style but wanted me to find my own. I cannot recommend Michelle enough. She is a wonder! Jennifer Paddock

author, The Weight of Memory, Point Clear

“It benefitted me immeasurably to brainstorm with you today about how to tweak scenes. Thank you for digging deep with your suggestions to help me clarify the characters’ motivations. I also appreciate your openness about the publishing industry… You have gone above and beyond.” Crimson P.

Houston, TX


First 50 Pages Critique
  • Choose this if you are applying to MFA programs or residency programs or sending a writing sample to an agent.

  • Written critique of the first 50 pages of your manuscript, including line edits

  • Are your opening chapters doing everything they should to engage the reader, introduce characters and conflict, establish setting, tone, and point of view, and move the story forward? Does the pacing lag at any point in the first 50 pages? Do the opening chapters make it clear why this particular story is being told at this particular time, from this unique perspective? How clean and clear is the prose? Have you given the agent, editor, or reader-at-large every reason to keep reading and ask for more? This critique will include advice on how to tighten the structure, line edits to make the prose flow more smoothly, suggestions for increasing dramatic tension in the first pages, and comps (comparable books) that you can include in your query letter. To purchase this service: Click BUY NOW. You will receive an email within two business days providing instructions on how to submit your manuscript. Once you have submitted your manuscript, I will send your critique within seven business days.
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Manuscript Critique, Revision Critique, & Two Phone Consultations
  • Choose this if you are committed to revising your novel within the next six months.

  • Includes all of the features of the Silver Package.
  • Also includes

  • detailed written evaluation of your revision advice on comps (comparable books) and how to submit your novel to agents and publishers One-hour phone, video, or in-person consultation to discuss revision

Novel Query

  • A critique of your book query letter
  • Suggestions for improving your hook, streamlining the voice, editing for story, and more
  • Includes suggestions for comps (comparable books)
  • Turnaround time is four business days
  • Following payment, please send query letter as a Word document to bayareabookdoctor at gmail dot com. You will also receive an email requesting your letter.