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

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-plus years of chops, editing New York Times bestselling writers and dozens of others over the years. Those are big damn chops.

This service is for writers to learn what's wrong with a work so they can fix it.

This is what agents or editors would tell you if they had the time.

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.

A pro-level critique is like a brick in the face with your eyes open. But. . .



I am limiting submissions to be sent in on one specific day each month. This way I can set aside the time for them and it does not disrupt my own writing.

For the present, the date will be the 10th.

Slots are limited to ten writers at a time. Instructions below will tell how to reserve a slot. You may reserve at any time, but may send the work only on the 10th.


I have RA and the less typing I do, the better. Yes, I have dictation software, but some typing is unavoidable and has gotten very painful. My old way of doing things – typing or dictating pages and pages of commentary – is no longer an option.

While the commentary was tailored to each writer, I found myself writing the same comments over and over (AND OVER!) again. It was exhausting and I'd wind up filling 8-10 pages up on a 6-page sample.

My new way of getting the job done is using a checklist. It has topic headings in bold with 90+ bullet point questions I need to answer.

Headings are on:

Genre, Hook, Character, Plot, Dialog, Emotional Landscape, Antagonist, Physical Description, Setting/Period/Backstory/Exposition, Grammar/Punctuation/Spelling/ Sentence Structure, The Writing Itself, Editorial Summation



  • * Is there a clear viewpoint character?
  • Yes.

  • * Is the protagonist likable?
  • Not clear on the first page, becomes likable/more interesting by p. 2.

  • * Do we know what the character is feeling?

    Yes, that is very clear.

    * Is it appropriate to the situation?
  • Not at all. When a person falls over a body in a dark alley, making wise cracks to the reader just doesn't work. Extrapolate how YOU would react to such circumstances and see where it takes you.

    The advantage of a checklist is the writer can instantly see and study what needs work and not have to wade through pages of comments. The list is sent as a .doc file, easy to print and tape above the desk.


    $25.00 for 3,000 Words

    I put in about 3 hours on each submission. After Paypal takes its cut, I'm making minimum wage in the US. That's a bargain for the work I do.

    Most works are accepted or rejected based on the first five pages. Experienced editors and agents really can tell if the writing is ready for a longer look based on that short a sample.

    Round up to finish off a paragraph. No obsessively ending in the middle of a sentence just to meet the word count.

    If I determine your work is not ready for a critique, 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.


    Send the start of the story or novel, but no prologues, no middle of the story with your "best" stuff. The best won't matter if an agent/editor does not read 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.

    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.

    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 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.

    AGAIN – If I get the vibe that your work isn't ready, I'll refund payment.

    If I think your submission is ready to shop, I'll let you know! However, I can be wrong. I was in one case for sure. The writer lavished his best work on the opening, then 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.

    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.


    You never heard of ELEMENTS OF STYLE or never once cracked it open, you're not ready for this.

    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.

    Don't send 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.

    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


    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.

    * 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
    * 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.

    * 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. Give your work some more work, run it by beta readers.

    * No sending 1500 words from one work and 1500 words from another. Chances are good I'll say the same stuff about the 2nd as the first, 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. 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 best friends trying to help, along with 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!

    * Work that has already gotten feedback from pro editors and agents I got a piece in from a writer who told me what others had said about her submission. Instead of taking those drops of gold to heart and doing a rewrite, she wanted to run it past me in case they were wrong. (Subtext: she did not like what they'd told her.)

    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!


    $25.00 per 3,000-word critique.

    To reserve a slot, email mystikmerchantrobes@gmail.com with the subject CRITIQUE RESERVATION.

    I will reply with instructions. If all slots are filled, I will put you down for the next round on a different date.


    It is up to you to remember to send your work on that date.

    Make sure the subject line has the title of the work and the author's name on it.

    Make sure the author's name and email addy are IN the submission itself.

    All submissions are confidential. Once the critique is sent, the submission is deleted.

    If I determine a submission is not ready for a critique, your payment will be refunded.


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

    Author name/Title of work

    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.

    Copyright 2018, P.N. Elrod No writers or even editors were harmed during the production of this page, though some coffee abuse took place.