Editing Services

I specialize in fantasy, science fiction and horror, but I love all types of fiction…so send me your novel manuscripts for general assessment, substantial review and/or copy-editing. I can also deal with shorter work, of course; let me help you make your work better.

Note: I guarantee total confidentiality. I’m delighted when clients offer public testimonials, but I will never reveal clients’ names or other details without permission.

For more information, you can contact me at j.a.gardner@outlook.com or DM me on Twitter at @jamesagard.

General Assessment

This is the first step toward producing a publishable novel. I’ll read your manuscript and provide feedback on details such as:

  • The overall concept: How have you developed your ideas, and what might you do to explore them more deeply?
  • The opening: Do you draw in the reader and establish a good starting point for everything that follows?
  • The characters: Are they believable and engaging?
  • The plot: Does it make sense? Does it provide interest and good pacing? Does it come to a satisfying conclusion?
  • The writing style: Does your point of view work? Is it consistent?
  • The background world (especially in science fiction and fantasy): Is it well-envisioned, well-developed and interesting?

My assessment will be 5-10 pages covering these and any other issues I think will make your book better. Normal response time will be two weeks after receipt of the manuscript, but that will vary depending on my workload on other projects. I’ll give you a firm deadline when we discuss terms.

Substantial Review

Choose this option when your manuscript is ready for a more detailed critique. I will go through the work line by line, providing feedback on all aspects of the writing. This includes all the factors included in “General Assessment” above, but in more depth. I’ll add comments to the manuscript wherever appropriate, providing direct feedback on plot, characters, setting and so on. I may also make note of language problems (spelling and grammar), but not at the level of a meticulous copy-edit.

When I’m done, I’ll send you an annotated copy of your manuscript, plus a document giving general notes about issues I think you should address. Normal response time will be a month after I receive the manuscript.


This is the final stage of manuscript preparation, after you’ve resolved most of the creative issues. This stage entails a meticulous review of spelling and grammar, aimed at making the manuscript acceptable for submission and/or publication. I’ll note discrepancies (“Wasn’t this character wearing blue jeans when the scene started? So why is she now in a dress?”), but the emphasis will be on the words and sentences, as opposed to high-level concerns.

The result of my work will be a clean version of your manuscript, using Microsoft Word’s standard features for tracking changes. This will let you accept or reject any changes I’ve made, and will also make it easy for you to deal with any questions I raise. I will also provide a style sheet summarizing conventions and chosen spellings.

Normal response time will be a month after I’ve received the manuscript.


I’ll provide a standard price list upon request. I prefer to be paid through PayPal: half in advance, and half on delivery. Canadian clients pay in Canadian dollars plus HST. Clients outside Canada will pay in U.S. dollars.


“Since 1991—well over a quarter of a century now—I’ve relied on James Alan Gardner’s incisive and brilliant commentary on my manuscripts. I owe much of my success to him—which is why I dedicated my Hugo Award-nominated novel Watch to him. Jim, with a shelf full of awards of his own, is simply the finest short-story writer the Canadian science-fiction and fantasy field has ever produced as well as being our most innovative novelist, but, unlike many other great writers, he also knows how to explain the craft. I recommend him highly.”

—Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of FlashForward and Quantum Night