Praise makes you feel good—
but specific, critical feedback helps you write better.
I've edited and coached writers to publishing deals with Penguin Random House, Knopf, Mantle, Spencer Hill, St. Martin's Press and Black Rose. I've guided essayists and humorists to publication in media including Time, the Guardian, McSweeney’s, Refinery29, Brevity, Hippocampus, the Belladonna and TED Talks. As Social Media Editor for Brevity, I inspire thousands of writers with weekly blogs on craft and the writing life.
I call myself the Unkind Editor because writers need direct, specific feedback, and that can feel a little bracing. But writers seeking serious professional guidance are investing their time and money. Clarity of critique respects and supports that commitment.
As your editor, I have three jobs:
With The Unkind Editor, your work receives the care and attention publishers invest in their top authors. You’ll get specific, sit-down-and-do-it strategies to finish your book and make it sellable. I will guide you to one of two destinations:
A tight, well-written and compelling manuscript, an excellent query letter, and a better-than-average shot at representation and traditional publication;
An impeccably edited, beautiful-to-look-at, fascinating book written at the peak of your abilities, which you will be proud to independently publish and share with friends, family and bookstores.
Your journey will take longer than you think.
It will cost more than you are planning.
It will be worth it.
Tell me more about editing
My specialty is developmental editing with an editorial letter for novels and memoirs. I approach your work from a five-point perspective:
- Concept. What's the big idea? Is it original, or tackled in a new way? Is it fundamentally interesting?
- Craft. The basics: spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice. Beyond the basics: sentence order, variety, brevity, cleanliness, style.
- Structure. Plot, and how events are revealed. Chronology and time-shifting.
- Story and Characters. Does the overall story engage the reader? Are thematic elements coherent? Do characters have clear drives and intentions? Does every character sound like themselves in dialogue, and not like anyone else?
- Voice. Who are we listening to, and why do we want to spend time with them? Are the characters unique and specific? More powerfully, what about you, the author, guides us through the story, and what words and sentence structures make your authentic personality clear?
- An editorial letter (usually 10-15 action-packed pages) giving feedback on each of these elements.
- Annotations and comments throughout the manuscript showing examples of the points listed in the letter.
- A custom Work Plan with specific, manageable steps, to give you energy and momentum into the next draft.
Other editing services:
Big-picture assessment of your book. A written report on whether your manuscript is ready for sale or submission, with detailed explanations on what needs improvement for the manuscript to reach a professional level.
Ongoing craft lessons, encouragement, inspiration, assistance developing your writing and your voice, and guidance through your publication journey. Skype sessions and editing can focus on a book, essay or story; a particular skill (such as comedy writing); or your writing career, including publication goals and development opportunities.
Ready to go?
Tell me more about what editing costs
What It Costs
Whether you choose me or another editor, a sample edit is essential. As the author, you need someone in whom you're confident, and whose feedback rings true in your writing heart. Some editors do free sample edits; I do not, because you will get more than your money's worth of editing from the sample, and it's an hour I spend 100% focused on you.
This article I wrote for The Writers Bloc gives some steps you can take to reduce the amount of editing your book needs, and explains why professional editing is expensive:
Make Professional Editing Work For You
Manuscript evaluations of up to 80,000 words are $950; developmental editing begins at $.03/word, based on how much work is needed. With your sample edit, you'll receive a detailed quote of what, why, how much, and how long it will take.
Find out more about getting started
Coaching and Mentoring
Ongoing guidance through the journey to publication, or focusing on a specific skill (like comedy writing) or publishing market can be paid on a per-session, per-project, or monthly basis. An initial phone/Skype session, including a sample edit, is $125.
Upon signing the editorial contract, a 30% deposit secures your place in my calendar. A further 60% is due upon return of manuscript. The final 10% is on your satisfaction with the completed edit. Coaching fees are due prior to each meeting.
Payments are accepted via credit card, direct deposit, and PayPal.
Ready to start?
Tell me more about your qualifications
Leafing through the classifieds in a popular writing magazine, I noticed something. The freelance editing ads were so...nice.
Gentle editor...But when I gave feedback to writers, I heard,
Sensitive, budget-conscious editor...
I'm so glad someone gave it to me straight.It's not fun or easy to hear it straight. But if you're up for it, you're at the right place.
I'm so tired of people being nice, it's not helping me get better.
Please, just tell me what's not working so I can fix it.
Practice. Lots and lots of practice.
I've guided authors to publication with Knopf, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harlequin Teen, Spencer Hill, St. Martin's Press, Black Rose, independent presses and self-publishing. I coached the writing of Rhiannon Navin's Only Child, and have edited work for essayists and humorists published in venues including Creative Nonfiction, McSweeney's, Refinery29, The Belladonna, Brevity and Hippocampus.
At Western Michigan University, I received an MFA in Playwriting while working as a professional playwright. This gave me a chance to analyze dramatic structure, scene-building, dialogue and character objectives in the classroom, while using writing technique in rehearsal every night. I studied nonfiction with J.D. Dolan and fiction with Jaimey Gordon and Stuart Dybek. I've been a teaching fellow at the Prague Summer Program and the Kenyon Writers Workshop, an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and assisted Dinty W. Moore, Dani Shapiro and Rick Moody. But if proximity was all it took, there would be a lot of coffee machines with strong literary voices.
What has made me a good editor is doing it. Serving as the Associate Editor for Theatre Topics. Reading multiple drafts of writer-friends' work and giving extensive feedback. Thinking critically about what makes strong, engaging writing and evaluating which elements of a piece are not working. Giving notes in language writers can receive and use.
I'm also a writer, so I know what the finished product should look like and how to get there. There's more about my writing and radio storytelling at I Do Words.
I blog at Brevity. This blog post on writing strong endings for short nonfiction shows some of how I think as a developmental editor: All's Well That Ends Well.
Praise makes you feel good. Criticism makes your work better.
Before I was a writer, I was—yes, really!—a circus performer. As an aerialist and acrobat, I performed and trained around the world. In a circus gym, the best performers are the ones getting the most criticism, because coaches think, you're worth my time. I can help you be great.
I'm not nasty or cutting, but I'm not kind. I don't care about your self-esteem unless it affects your ability to keep writing, and I'll only praise stuff that's genuinely right.
Your work deserves it.
You deserve it.
Ready to start?
Tell me about your editing fees.
I have questions, take me to the FAQ.
If you're sending pages for a sample edit, please upload them below. You can either visit the payment page now (it opens in a new window) or a link to it will show up on the confirmation page when you send.
In the comment field, please give the overall word count of your project, where you are in the process of writing, querying or independently publishing, and whether your goal is traditional or self-publication, a particular market, or something else.
Please note, I am booked for full-length projects through September 2018. If you'd like to work in Fall 2018, plan to reserve your space before August.
I am accepting coaching clients on a case-by-case basis; get in touch if you'd like to know more.
I've never worked with an editor, what's that like?
Aren't you kind of expensive?
What genres of work do you edit?
What kinds of editing do you do?
Can I get a reference?
What the hell kind of editor uses the Oxford comma inconsistently on her website?
You terrify me.
|Aren't you kind of expensive?|
Number one, I'm in line with what other editors charge.
Number two, I'm very good.
Number three, I'm very fast. I live in Dubai, so I've put in an 8-hour day before the East Coast has finished breakfast and checked their email. That head start, plus being very good (see number two) means you get your work back before you get antsy.
As the saying goes, "Good, fast, and cheap. You can only have two."
Functionally, you are paying me to clear my desk of freelance and personal projects. When I have your work you are my full-time job.
It's best to start with a sample edit to see if we're a good match.
If you're ready to work, send five pages. A $50 editing fee will be applied to your overall quote.
If I realize I'm not the editor for you, you will receive a refund. Otherwise I'll send your pages back edited, with detailed explanations and a firm quote for the editing your manuscript needs. If you realize working with me is not a good fit, I'm happy to refer you to other (kinder) editors.
If the edits resonate for you and you feel confident this work will help you on your journey to publication, revise your pages in the way you feel both improves your work and honors your intention. Return your revisions to make sure we're communicating on the same wavelength. I'll send you a contract for editing services and request a 30% deposit to hold your space on my calendar.
If you're an in-person person, preliminary consultations are also available via Skype. A consultation including a sample edit and 30 minutes of discussion about your work and goals is $125.
Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book
This 60-minute webinar covers the Seven-Draft process in depth. Story, Dialogue, Characters, Technical Elements—what should you be working on in successive drafts of your book, and how can you dive into each draft without getting lost, frustrated or overwhelmed?
You'll receive a download link for a 60-minute video with slides and audio presentation together, accompanying mp3 of sound only, and the slides that can be flipped through at your own pace. The file is yours to keep, so you can watch it again and again.
You'll receive your download link within 24 hours.
Editors Canada Presents Developmental Editing for Fiction and Memoir
Presenter: Allison K Williams
Length: 2 hours (1 hour each session)
Cost: $75 for members, $100 for non-members
Learn to address big-picture issues including structure, plot, story, tension, continuity, world-building and character growth in fiction and memoir manuscripts. Excellent for those who work with indie authors, and those who want a greater understanding of dramatic structure, how to use it, and how to explain it to a client.
The key learning objectives of this webinar will include the following:
- In a World: You have 170k words, but is there a story?
- Starting with SUCK: Kicking off the plot strongly in the first page (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete Kickoff).
- The Crazy Eight: Eight structural elements that make strong stories and identify plot holes.
- The "I Want" Song: Character objectives make strong protagonists and intriguing villains.
- All Books Are Mysteries: How "show don't tell" works in structure.
- Wait, Where?: World-building through interaction.
Allison K Williams, the Unkind Editor, is the author of Self-Edit Like a Pro and Get Published in Literary Magazines. She has edited for indies and Big Five publishers, and serves as social media editor for Brevity.
This is a video file to watch at your leisure on your computer or mobile device. The file is yours to keep, so you can watch it again and again.
Purchase Developmental Editing for Fiction and Memoir now. (You'll be taken to the Editors Canada website to order.)
Allison helped guide me through the entire process of writing my book, from piecing together a first draft all the way to querying agents and learning about the publishing process...She helped me find confidence in myself and in my ability to accomplish what I had set out to do—tell this story that had me in its grip and that meant so much to me.
Rhiannon Navin, author of Only Child
THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. Your notes are always spot on—sometimes even things I thought of but didn't do. I really wouldn't be able to do this novel without you...have almost given up so many times. Including this morning! Onward!
Pamela Peterson, author of The Trip
Allison has an impressive ability to see right into the heart of your writing and pinpoint exactly what's working and what isn't. That, combined with her immensely supportive energy, makes her an extraordinary writing coach and mentor. I promise she'll leave you better than she found you.
Alex Baia, humorist
After six previous rejections, McSweeneys is taking the Haggadah!!!!! I’m beyond thrilled! It sounds cliche but I couldn’t have done this without your help over these last few months. Truly. Your impact on my writing has been “YUUUGE!”
Terry Heyman, essayist and comedy writer
To my editor, thank you, thank you, thank you. There are editors and then there is Allison Williams, The Unkind Editor. Your insight and expertise not only made my Young Adult novel stronger but made me a better writer.
Jay Dee T, author of Falling Into Darkness
OMG I LOVE BEING EDITED!!!! Once I understood the overall trajectory it was like, oh! I have a puzzle now! but with scaffolding—actually exactly like a puzzle. Without an editor I’m putting it together knowing it's a picture of a cat but I don't have a visual on the end product. WITH AN EDITOR I HAVE THE BOX COVER!!!!
Erin Clark, author of SEX ICON
Allison's comments point out what is brilliant and what needs improving, and why. She often makes me laugh out loud. Her critique is on point and shows so clearly what is unclear (e.g. something that is in my head but not on the page) that I immediately understand what needs fixing.
Iris Van Ooyen, author of Poison Arrow
OH, the Work Plan rocks. It's like a life-raft for my floundering psyche.
Sky Burr-Drysdale, emerging author