Okay, it's not THAT bad, but it ain't easy!

This service is for writers working hard to sell work in the commercial market. You send stuff out only to collect a rejection. If you knew just why, you'd fix it in a heartbeat. Your writers' group is supportive, but you need feedback from a pro to find out what's needed.

I know, because I went through it, too. I collected at least 25 rejections on my first novel. It was a pretty good book, nothing wrong with the writing, all my betareaders said so, but no one could tell me that I needed to cut the first 5 pages. (Finally figured it out on my own.)

This is what I do: tell you what's wrong so you can fix it. I look at it with the eyes of an acquisition editor or agent, not a best friend, not an encouraging writing group pal.

This is the stuff agents or editora would tell you if they had the time. They WANT to find something to buy, but don't have the time to coddle writers who are almost there.

When I read the slush pile for an (excellent and SFWA-approved) e-magazine, I wanted to tell some of the writers that they were close but could not. I was on the publisher's clock and they said not to do that. Doing so always resulted in the eager writer wanting to open a dialog about their work, and we did not have the time!

Those were also electronic submissions. Gone are the days when an editor in a fit of kindness might scribble a single line of suggestion and pop it into an envelope.

That's what this service is about, but I'm not so kindly! I'm here to tell you why you're not selling, not to make you feel happy. This is business, so put on your Suit, your pro face (with mouth guard), and brace for incoming!

A critique is not something I offer lightly. If you've read anything about professional writers, you know that we just don't give feedback. Too many times it blows up in our face. I've been there, done that, have the T-shirt. Blow ups happen because the writer seeking an honest opinion wasn't ready to hear it. Keep that in mind when you read the rules.

How am I qualified to do this? Look over my website or look me up on Wiki. I have the chops. Great big choppity-chops, twenty-five years of chops, editing New York Times bestselling writers and dozens of others over the years. Those are big damn chops.

Critiquing is open to anyone with a credit card who can follow the rules.

If you can't follow the rules DON'T SEND ANYTHING.

One of the protocols in professional publishing is being able to follow the publisher's "submission guidelines." Writers who ignore them get a rejection. Publishing is a binary thing. If you can't follow directions they don't want to work with you.

I know you want feedback for your work, but the rules are in place to let you know if you are ready for it and if it's something I do. It is a waste of your money and my time to rush in too soon or send a work I can't critique because it's not my genre.


The $10.00 Quickie! The Mini Brick! Almost a Lego! I read through the submission, then offer comments, both general and specific, by return email. I'll let you know what problems are there and why it got rejected. It's a mini version of the Brick in the Face and often the best option for writers on a budget. This is also the fastest option, since I can sometimes do a same-day return on the feedback!

For 3,000 words, about 12 double-spaced pages, (round up to finish off a paragraph. No obsessively ending in the middle of a sentence. Relaxavision.

The $25.00 running commentary feedback is suspended.

Why is that? Many writers who are almost there don't need their work ripped into line by line. It's discouraging and counter productive to their creativity. The ten-dollar overall feedback is more than enough to get the writer on the right path.

I also got in a number of submissions that simply were not ready for it. In those cases I would do a general feedback and refund 15 bucks.

In a very few cases I have gotten submissions that were not ready at all. When that happens I let you know and you get a full refund. You'll get some words of advice and will be encouraged to drop a tangible thank you in the "tip jar." I don't have to take time to put in the advice, so a tip IS deeply appreciated!

If I determine your work is not ready for a critique, then I'll refund your payment.

It's not a rejection. Writers develop at different rates and sometimes the worst thing they can do is ask for feedback before they're ready. I've had writers clearly NOT ready for this, but they had more money than sense and sent stuff anyway. I'm not going to enable that.


Limiting submissions to 10 critique slots at a time. There is a notice above the Paypal section below that tells how many are taken and how many are open. If it's filled up one day, come back the next and try again.

When I offered the service in 2015 I was slammed with 100s of critique requests in the space of a few days and got overwhelmed. There was no way I could keep up with those numbers. The stress was bad for my health; I had to stop it entirely. This option allows me to do things at a less stressful pace.

THE RULES: Do not send anything if:

You never heard of ELEMENTS OF STYLE or never once cracked it open, you're not ready for this. Your critique should NOT be focused on basic punctuation and grammar.

If you're hoping for an egoboo from a pro. My job is to tell you what's wrong with the piece, not make you feel better. If you think/hope I'll be nice to your baby because it is so beautiful and you've worked very hard on it, you're not ready. An amateur fishes for approval. A pro wants to know the flaws so they can be fixed.

An unfinished work in progress. Are you nuts? All a critique will do to a work in progress is KILL IT DEAD. Finish the work first. Do some drafts, run it by beta readers, but don't send it to me. It isn't ready.

If it isn't something I critique. There is a list below.

If you want honest feedback and have a thick hide (and a credit card), then have at it. A thick hide is necessary.

You will HATE what I have to say. I'll be horrible, don't kid yourself, you'll most likely feel sick about it.

I won't soften things and it can be very upsetting. This is the same stuff I dish out in any writing workshop. I don't care if your mom loves it or if your writing group thinks you're awesome and all your friends gave you 5-star reviews on your Kindle page.

This is professional level work, not a support group for special snowflakes with enablers.

Pro-level critiques start with, "we both know this sucks" and go downhill from there.

But put on your game face and brace to take it like a pro. I'm not adding in a soothing cookie like: "But I liked this little bit here!" so you don't feel too awful.

It's a brick in the face with your eyes open.


DO NOT use my critique as a decider on whether or not to continue with writing.

THAT is a cop-out and you know it, so OWN it, don't fob it off on me. You either have the fire in the belly to write or you don't. You may be a stinky writer and never improve, but if it gives you pleasure, then keep writing, dammit!

My hobby is painting. I'm terrible at it, but I love it. I may never sell a single canvas and a pro artist may never say anything nice about my works, but I will continue to paint. I don't need another person's validation to keep painting. I certainly won't stop should anyone say I should. Screw them, I will paint and enjoy it!

It's like that.

Limit to 3000 words for 10.00.

If it goes longer to finish out a paragraph, that's okay, but don't send more than that.

Most editors and agents make a decision based on the first couple pages. My agent reads just five pages. Make sure something happens in those pages so readers want to know what happens next.

Send the start of the story or novel, no prologues, no middle of the story with your "best" stuff. The best won't matter if no agent/editor reads far enough in to see it.

If you have to chop out lots of needed info to fit the word limit, then you're not doing it right. Trim it from the start and polish or leave it in and find out if it's up to par.

Proof it one MORE time. Spell check is your FRIEND! Reading it aloud is a good trick, also changing the font. It's amazing how many errors pop out when it's in Comic Sans MS! You don't want to send the file, then contact me for a do-over. You don't get that in the pro leagues.

Use .doc (PREFERRED) or .docx files.

Do not make me notice your punctuation or lack thereof. You want to be a pro, then learn to use the tools of your craft. It ain't rocket science, it's harder, but you CAN learn!

I don't have time to open a dialogue with you about your project after the critique is delivered. You may want to share your plans for it or talk about the plot or discuss publishing details, but I am NOT your writing partner, mentor, or buddy. I do not have the time and have my own books in need of work.

If you are genuinely confused by something, let me know and I'll be glad to explain, but once the job is done, I'm moving on to the next writer.

If you so hate the critique that you want a refund, sorry, ain't happening. I spent time on that job and deserve to be paid for it.

If you fly into a rage and want to tell me to go suck a tailpipe, fine, write that mail -- but DON'T SEND IT. This time next year you could be selling books and I could ask you to write a story for one of my collections. You don't want to make yourself memorable in a bad way. Editors have long and evil memories.

If I get the vibe that your work isn't ready, I'll refund before I'm in too deep and recommend sites where you can get free feedback. There's no shame in not being ready--it takes a lot of practice to get to Carnegie Hall!

Other writers are waiting their turn in line. Once you get the feedback that's it. Grab it and use it, apply it to new works. Be awesome.

I welcome repeat business, but do NOT send the same piece twice. Send something different. I've been in workshops where writers kept bringing back the same thing week after week, just a little bit different, hoping to get it perfect and get a pat on the back.

That is not how you learn.

I critique what I'm familiar with in commercial genre fiction:

* Science Fiction & Fantasy
* Steampunk
* Urban Fantasy
* Paranormal
* Romance
* Young Adult (in the above genres)
* Historical (includes westerns)
* Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
* I'll look at "dystopian future" stuff, but I DON'T like it and that will color my critique.

Again: if a submission isn't ready for a full on pro critique I will let you know and refund your payment.

There's no shame in that, it just means you have to work more at developing your craft. Writers develop at different rates. At least this way you won't have to wait to find out!

If I think your submission is ready to shop, I'll let you know that, too. However, I can be wrong. I was in one case for sure. The writer lavished his best work on the opening, then lazily dropped the ball on the rest of the book. It was full of the same errors he'd fixed in the first chapter. He didn't apply what he'd learned to the other chapters. You're supposed to do that.


Why don't I want this stuff?

You don't take a twisted ankle to a throat doctor, you don't send (for example) non-fiction to a genre editor. Sorry, but I just won't be able to help you. If this stuff is in your work, don't send it in.


* An unfinished work in progress. You won't benefit from this kind of crit and will stop writing. Trust me on this. Don't do this to your work or to yourself.

* A raw "first draft." You're proud of finishing something, and that is a huge accomplishment, but it's a waste of your time and mine to send anything in that's too new and often unproofed. A baby fresh out of the oven is not ready to play a recital. Give your work some more work, run it by beta readers.

* No sending five pages from one work and five pages from another. If you have two works to send, then buy two separate critiques. Chances are good I'll say the same stuff over the 2nd 5-page sample as the 1st, so it's best to do one at a time.

* ANYTHING THAT'S ALREADY BEEN ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION. Please, you're wasting your money and taking the slot of another writer waiting her turn in line. Work with your assigned editor and start paying things forward.

* A second version of the submission. You sent your file, then went over it obsessively one more time, found problems, and changed things, NOW you want to send an updated, better version the very next day along with a nice apology. Don't do this. Acquisition editors don't have the time to keep track of updates. If you have second thoughts about the sub, then you're not ready for feedback. Once you send it in, do something not related to the piece to keep your head from exploding.

* ANY story you did not write yourself. (This includes loving parents sending stuff by their genius children. I am glad you're supportive of your budding writer, but let them decide if they're ready for this; don't do them any favors!)

* ANY story where rape is a plot point.
* ANY story where a child is harmed/bullied/molested.
* ANY story where an animal dies/is harmed.
* Prologues
* Flash fiction
* Query letters / letters to the editor
* Women's fiction – it's different from romance, don't relabel.
* Literary fiction
* Horror -- don't relabel as "dark fantasy."
* Poetry
* Children's books / picture books / middle school -- Don't relabel as "Young Adult." I know the difference.
* Autobiography / personal journey
* Film scripts / play scripts / comic book scripts
* Essays / term papers / office reports
* Scientific papers
* Inspirational / religious
* Rants against your ex-partner/boss/whatever
* Political anything
* Fan Fiction -- I don't hate fan fiction, but this service is for writers working hard to get commercially published. You are just as serious about your fandom, but there are plenty of places to post fic and get feedback, use them. Respect your fellow writer. Here's the smeghead spoiled it for all.

* Work that has gotten feedback from pro editors and agents.

This is a new one. I got a piece in from a writer who told me what other editors and agents had already said about her submission. Instead of taking those drops of gold to heart and doing a rewrite to fix the problem, she decided to run it past me in case they might be wrong.

They were spot on right. I agreed with them. This was painful, because I had to refund her payment. I need the money, but I'm not picking a writer's pocket just because she didn't like their assessment. Too bad. You can take their advice or not, but be aware that they didn't have to say anything at all. Even negative feedback can be put to use by a smart writer.

Be a pro and respect this list. Do not think for one instant that your writing is so awesome that I'll make an exception in *your* case. I won't.

This is an honor system. Be honorable.

Final word: if you survive this, you can survive anything. No future editing experience will hold any terror for you after this fire walk!

Now, put on your game face. Show me what you got!

THERE ARE 8SLOTS OUT OF 10 OPEN -- 10/01/2016

Make your purchase, then send your .doc (preferred) or .docx of your submission to mystikmerchantrobes@gmail.com

Make sure the subject line has the title of the work and the author's name on it. If they don't match your email account, let me know so I don't mix things up. I want to make sure you get YOUR critique, not that of anther writer!

I'll send an acknowledgment of the job and will get to it as I am able. It could take a week to 10 days, depending how busy I am and as health allows. If for any reason I can't do the work, you get a full refund.


Please do this. You do not want me sending YOUR critique to another writer!

Critique Levels

Copyright 2016, P.N. Elrod No writers or even editors were harmed during the production of this page, though some coffee abuse took place.