My specialty is developmental editing and manuscript evaluation for novels and memoirs.

For both full developmental edits and manuscript evaluations, 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?
Developmental editing includes:
  • An editorial letter (15-20 action-packed pages) giving feedback on each of these elements.
  • Extensive annotations and comments throughout the manuscript showing examples of the points listed in the letter.
  • About 25 pages of line editing (throughout the manuscript).
  • A custom Work Plan with specific, manageable steps, to give you energy and momentum into the next draft.
  • A 60-minute follow-up call.
Manuscript Evaluation includes:
  • A 3-5 page editorial letter with an overview of what's working and what challenges can be addressed.
  • About 10 pages of line editing (throughout the manuscript).
  • Margin comments throughout the manuscript showing examples of how the editing suggestions can be carried out.
  • A custom Work Plan with specific, manageable steps, to give you energy and momentum into the next draft.
  • A 60-minute follow-up call.
Honestly, my Manuscript Evaluation is as thorough as many other editors' developmental edits, but my full developmental edit is such a monster I needed to call this something else. Seriously, this is plenty for most writers to get to work on major improvements, and you probably don't need to spend more.

Book Coaching
I have very limited availability for individual coaching. Coaching includes ongoing craft lessons, encouragement, inspiration, assistance developing your writing and your voice, and guidance through your publication journey. Zoom 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.

For coaching, please start by booking Office Hours time to discuss your needs, or an Editing Consultation.

Tell me more about what editing costs

What It Costs

A developmental edit of your book is the equivalent of a semester MFA class with the professor's full attention—without having to read and give feedback on the other students' work. A well-edited manuscript is a valuable step toward publication and an investment in your writing career.

This article I wrote for The Writers Bloc explains why professional editing is expensive:

Make Professional Editing Work For You

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.

You'll receive 5 pages with comments and line edits, plus a detailed quote of what I recommend, why, how much, and how long it will take.

Project Rates

Manuscript Evaluations of up to 80,000 words are $1650; additional words are .02/word. This is a light developmental edit of your entire manuscript, including margin comments throughout, about 10 pages of line editing to show editing suggestions in action, and a 3-5 page editorial letter with an overview of what's working and what challenges can be addressed. Your Manuscript Evaluation also includes a Work Plan with suggested steps for moving into your next draft, and a 60-minute follow-up call to discuss the feedback.

Honestly, my Manuscript Evaluation is as thorough as many other editors' developmental edits, but my full developmental edit is such a monster I needed to call this something else. Seriously, this is plenty for most writers to get to work on major improvements, and you probably don't need to spend more.

Full Developmental Edits begin at $.035/word, based on how much work is needed. A Full Developmental Edit includes about 25 pages of line editing, more explanation of every type of edit, more comments per page, a 15-20 page editorial letter with a Work Plan, and a 60-minute follow-up call.

Find out more about getting started with a full manuscript edit

Office Hours
This is your time! We can talk through your questions and challenges related to:
  • Platform
  • Social Media (includes quick review of your socials!)
  • Query/synopsis feedback
  • Submissions advice
  • Pitching advice/Pitch feedback
  • Your book/essay concept or structure
We can also screen share for live editing--I edit your pages and we talk through the edits as I go.

Office hours are booked as 30- or 60-minute meetings, and don't include editing before our meeting. You can add on a pages, query or synopsis edit for an additional charge.

Ongoing guidance through the journey to publication, finishing your book, or focusing on a specific skill (like comedy writing) or publishing market can be booked in a package of six sessions for $895, after an on-boarding meeting. To further investigate coaching, please book an Office Hours or Editorial Consultation session as your first meeting.

  • Editorial Consultations
  • Platform & Social Media Consultations
  • Submission Package: Editing of Query, Synopsis and First 10 Pages

For Developmental Editing and Manuscript Evaluations, 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 packages, editorial sessions and office hours are paid upon booking.

Payments are accepted via credit card, direct deposit/bank transfer, Venmo, Zelle, Interac and PayPal. All fees are quoted in US dollars.

Ready to start?
Tell me more about your qualifications

Why Unkind?

Why Unkind?
Leafing through the classifieds in a popular writing magazine, I noticed something. The freelance editing ads were so...nice.

Gentle editor...

Nurturing editor...

Sensitive, budget-conscious editor...
But when I gave feedback to writers, I heard,
I'm so glad someone gave it to me straight.

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.
It's not fun or easy to hear it straight. But if you're up for it, you're at the right place.

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.


Please note: full-manuscript editorial services are not available until May 2021 or later. Sample edits should be done as soon as possible to secure your calendar spot.

Editing Consultations, Submission Package edits (query/synopsis/first pages), Platform & Social Media Consultations, and Office Hours are available as booked.

Click here to check availability and pricing, or to book a sample edit. Or sign up for the mailing list, ask a question, or say hello via the form below.

What Do You Need?:
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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.

I've never worked with an editor, what's that like?

I'll send you a lot of notes. A lot. You'll initially sulk and feel like you wasted your money, because being criticized sucks. After a couple of days, you'll start to think, well, maybe some of those notes will be helpful, I might as well try them. Then you'll take great pleasure in finding ways to solve problems I've identified in ways that aren't what I suggested. You'll begrudgingly accept that some of the notes are dead on, and start to feel relieved that as you work through the next draft, the writing starts to feel smoother. More alive. More you.

Then your work will be better.

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.

What genres of work do you edit?

I'm strongest at editing memoir, literary fiction, Young Adult, creative nonfiction, mystery and playscripts. I'm also delighted to work with soft science fiction and most fantasy.

You're better with another editor for hard science fiction or elaborate high fantasy. I can help you with line editing and plot, but I don't know the genres well enough to position your work within the canon.

What kinds of editing do you do?

After evaluating your five pages and defining your goals and expectations, we'll choose which type(s) of editing will best help your work.

Manuscript Evaluation. Feedback on the overall concept and execution of your manuscript, with questions and suggestions for further work. Feedback on story and plot, characters and concepts. Identification of craft issues and suggestions for addressing them. This is "big picture" work.

Developmental Editing. Working with an early draft to help you shape your manuscript into a coherent, readable book. Includes everything above in Manuscript Evaluation, plus comments and questions throughout the manuscript, some line-editing to show where and how to address craft challenges, and a step-by-step Work Plan for finishing your next draft.

Line editing. Going through your work line-by-line to make sure every sentence is in the best possible shape before publication. Marking sections that need rewriting or rewording. Assuring consistency of voice, excellent usage, word choices, grammar and spelling, and checking plot continuity.

Copyediting. Proofreading, grammar and typo fixes. This is technical editing that does not focus on style, story or concept. Fact-checking can fit here, too.

English-to-English. For non-native speakers, correct colloquial usage (USA, UK or Canadian) in the voice or style you prefer.

Please note I do not provide line editing, copyediting, English-to-English or proofreading as standalone services; they are only available within a book development process.

I also provide coaching to writers focused on career development or refining and improving their craft. Typically, writers send a chapter, essay, or pages; I return written edits and we discuss the work and how to proceed in a Zoom meeting.

Can I get a reference?

Certainly. Email me with a brief statement of what you're looking for and the type of project, and I'll put you in touch with writers I've edited. Honestly, though, your mileage may vary, and you may want to bite the bullet and see how that five-page sample edit goes.

What the hell kind of editor uses the Oxford comma inconsistently on her website?

Nice work spotting that! I prefer to use the serial comma when it clarifies meaning and forgo it when a list reads more smoothly without the extra comma. If you're writing for publication, we'll use your preference, or the style manual that your publisher or hoped-for publisher uses.

You terrify me.

Technically, that's not a question. But it comes up a lot.

Think of yourself as an Olympic runner, and I am your coach. It's not my job to hold your hand and say, 'Oh sweetie, you ran real fast!' It's my job to help you run faster.

That said, your work will be liberally sprinkled with NICE!!!!! and THIS SO WORKS!!!!! because the fun part of my job is telling you when you're great.

Getting Started

It's best to start with a sample edit to see if we're a good match.

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, you may want to book an Editorial Consultation, which includes a sample edit and 30 minutes of discussion about your work and goals. Book an Editorial Consultation here.

Please note: full-manuscript editorial services are not available until September 2021 or later. I'm usually booked 4-6 months in advance.

Editing Consultations, Submission Package edits (query/synopsis/first pages), Platform & Social Media Consultations, and Office Hours are available and ongoing.

Click here to check availability and pricing.


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.

Cost: $45

You'll receive your download link within 24 hours.

Scrivener (not a webinar)
I swear by this software for plotting, structuring, writing, and even editing. There's a steep learning curve, but once you're there you'll never go back.
Buy Scrivener 3 for macOS (Regular Licence)

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
Language: English

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
New York, USA

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
Connecticut, USA

Alex BaiaAllison 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
Texas, USA

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
Pennsylvania, USA

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
Alaska, USA

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
Catalunya, Spain

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
Breda, Netherlands

OH, the Work Plan rocks. It's like a life-raft for my floundering psyche.
Sky Burr-Drysdale, emerging author
Florida, USA

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