My name is Zoe Whittall and I have a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. I've published two literary novels, Holding Still for as Long as Possible (House of Anansi, 09), and Bottle Rocket Hearts (Cormorant Books, 07), and three books of poetry, most recently Precordial Thump (Exile Editions). I've published one high-interest/low vocab novel for adults called The Middle Ground (Orca Books). I've also edited an anthology of short fiction. I work as a news reporter for Quill & Quire, a magazine about the Canadian publishing industry. You can read more about me on my blog.
I frequently receive emails and facebook messages from fans who are aspiring writers. They would like me to take a look at what they've written. They want to know - is it ready? Is it any good? What should I do now?
I can certainly empathize with that feeling - you've accomplished a significant draft. It feels amazing. You want to tell everyone, but you're also terrified. So, now what? How does it become a book? At this point in my creative process, I have an agent who looks it over and gives me substantive feedback. I either go back to the drawing board and work on re-writes, or go through a quick proofread if she thinks it's ready to go out to publishers.
My goal is to provide the same service to aspiring writers who have not yet secured an agent. Substantive advice on narrative arc, character, style, setting, pacing, voice - everything you must nail before you show it to anyone. I can also provide advice if you're halfway through a novel and are suddenly unsure where to take it.
I'm interested. What do I do?
Send me an email describing your manuscript in two paragraphs or less, and then outline what kind of advice you think you are looking for. If you don't know, and you just want someone to give you their opinion, that is perfectly fine. I will email you back with options.
Can you read my poetry manuscript?
No. I love poetry. I publish poetry. But straight up, I'm afraid I do not feel confident enough to consult on poetry.
Can you read my memoir?
Sure. As long as it's not one of those "My Year of Doing ______" books or a Tumblr blog to book. I hate those books.
Can you proof-read or do line-edits?
No, but I can refer you to an excellent copy-editor for that.
Can you help me get published?
Probably not. But if I really like your book, I will chat it up, sure. I can also give you advice on how to submit your work to a publisher or agent.
I've written a rough draft. Will you read that?
I'm mostly looking for manuscripts that are either done, or close to being done. Or, like I said, halfway through and stalled. That said, if your rough draft is lengthy and you are committed to seeing it through but just don't know how to start the daunting second draft, then I can take a look. It will depend on the quality of your work and we can chat about it when you send me an initial email.
How do I get my work to you?
You mail me a hard copy of your manuscript. I will read it and respond electronically.
How much does it cost?
If you send me an email to email@example.com, I will email you the fee structure.
What if I don't like what you say?
You certainly don't have to agree with my comments. You always have the right to ignore any editorial advice and trust your instincts. Hopefully, before we begin, we will have a conversation where you would tell me explicitly what you want to change about your book. Are you looking for advice about dialogue? Do you think the ending might be weak? I can tailor my comments to suit what you think you need, as well as provide my own comments. If you want me to be gentle, I can do that. If you want ruthless criticism, I can also do that. The whole point is for you to get as much out of it as you possibly can.
What if I still don't like what you say?
Then this is a good initial lesson in what it's like to publish. You will not always agree with what editors, agents, publishers or critics are saying. That's just part of the job.