Update: I have 25+ novels to read and critique, which is all I can take right now. I am therefore closing this offer down for now. When I’ve made enough of a dent in these to not be giving people a half-year wait, I may open back up. (I’m assuming I can do one good and respectful novel critique a week, which means the folks at the end of the queue are looking at half a year’s wait right now.)

I considered doing something like this last year, but my health wasn’t in a place where I could do much reading outside of what I was already doing at work. Since my health is better at the moment, this is something I can do to help.

So here’s how it works:

  • You make a donation to the ACLU of at least $100 USD.
  • You screencap the confirmation of your donation.
  • You send me a link to the screencap, using the Contact Me page.
  • I email you back and say hey, great, awesome, now send me your novel. Or I say okay, hang on, I’ve got a few ahead of you, and I will tell you when I’m ready for your novel.
  • When it’s time, you send me an email with your novel in Word or RTF format.
  • I read it and write up a critique.
  • I send you the critique and we go back and forth a bit on any points that are confusing.
  • You are hopefully happy because you got some feedback on your novel, and I’m happy because I feel like I helped, and the charity is happy because they got a little extra. Everybody wins!

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does it take for you to do your critique?
It depends. I’m doing this in my free time, so when life gets stressful, it will take longer. Once I let you know that I’ve started your novel, I will try to have your critique done within two weeks.

How long is your critique? What do you give feedback on?
That depends on how long your novel is. My average is between 2000 and 3000 words. Here’s a detailed post about my critique process.

Can I ask you questions about Dragon Age/Mass Effect/Other BioWare stuff while we’re talking?
Sorry, no. While I might use characters or plot notes as an example, this is definitely something I’m doing outside work, which means that I can’t answer questions about my work at BioWare while we’re doing it.

I feel guilty because my novel is really long.
If you’re really feeling guilty, donate more. I will read anything from 50,000 words to 200,000 words — although the latter will likely take me longer. If you’ve written an old-school fantasy doorstop and it clocks in at 300,000 words, we can talk. 🙂 (And in theory, I have no lower limit, although I won’t lower the price. The 50,000-words number is specifically there for folks who finish their NaNoWriMo novel and want some feedback.)

I feel nervous because I’m not a professional, and my novel might be bad.
I’ve given critiques of very polished novels and critiques of novels that needed a lot of work. I will be professional but compassionate. If you care enough to write a full novel and make a donation, I will care enough to treat you with respect, even if it’s your first novel and it’s very rough.

Also bear in mind that unless you are one of a handful of people, you have only seen my final stuff after an editor has cleaned it up and early readers have told me where I was being stupid. You have never seen one of my crappy first drafts. And The Palace Job, the first novel I had published, was the seventh novel I wrote. I have six in the trunk, which a few of my friends have copies of to use as blackmail.

Can I send you fanfic to critique?
Unfortunately, there are legal reasons that I can’t read BioWare fanfic. If I read it — and especially if I comment on it — it can be used as future evidence that I stole somebody’s idea, so our devs can’t read or comment on fanfic from BioWare franchises.

If you care enough about your Babylon 5/Farscape fanfic to make a $100+ donation to a charity for me to critique that, though, I’m totally game.

Why the ACLU?
After hearing reports that a lot of specific charities and GoFundMes are overwhelmed, it feels right to support an established organization that I believe does good work, and has the resources and people to make sure that the money you donate gets sent somewhere good. If you want to donate to a specific state affiliate (for example, the ACLU of Minnesota), that is also fine.

You should set the donation amount to less/more than $100!
I’ve heard some very kind people saying that my time and skills are worth more, and some folks who think I’m being greedy. The reason I set the charity target where I did is that it is low enough that folks who can’t afford the services of an actual developmental editor (who would do more than I would, and who charges much more than $100 for their services) can scrape together enough to do it, and it’s high enough that it will help.

This is a donation on both sides. You’re donating money. I’m donating time.

That said, if you want to give more to the charity, by all means do so!

Why are you having people send screenshots? Doesn’t that mean that they can cheat you with clever Photoshopping? Wouldn’t it be more secure to have them send you money that you then donate?
I in no way want to handle the money. There are tax implications, for one thing, and I want it to be clear to everyone that all donations are donations to the charity, not to me. Handling the money in a responsible and professional way would make this enough work for me that I would probably just not do it.

If somebody fakes a donation, that’s on their conscience, not mine.

I missed the window. When will you be open again?
When I’m done and have cleared any existing life stuff off my plate. Once I’ve done this a few times, I will hopefully be able to figure out a rough schedule of when I can expect to be open to submissions.