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McCRIT: REAL-WORLD EDITING
The more you write, the more difficult it is to find meaningful criticism. Numerous ‘professionals’ and ‘editors’ are out there offering to assess your work, but who are they and what is their experience? How do you know who to trust? 

What you need is detailed, comprehensive, honest, constructive and insightful feedback from somebody who actually puts theory into practice. Not general hints, not vague observations, not simplistic praise. You want an X-ray. A CAT scan. Full blood-work for your novel.
HOW PUBLISHERS ASSESS YOUR NOVEL
The truth is that no genuine agent or publisher is going to read your whole novel if the first few pages are not up to standard. Anyone offering to edit your whole novel will be wasting your time and money if your prose is not publishable − but will they ever tell you that? Structure means nothing without effective prose.
HOW I ASSESS YOUR NOVEL
I don’t want to see your whole novel straight away, and you don’t want me to. I initially ask to see only the first few thousand words. With this sample, I can judge whether your writing is up to scratch and whether an agent or publisher would actually read on. I’ll do a full diagnosis of your writing and provide comprehensive feedback with which you can reassess your entire novel. 
 
And if your first few thousand words are indeed up to standard, only then will I recommend that you send the entire novel – because only then will it stand a chance in the real world of publishing.
“[McCreet] keeps a firm eye on structural machinery, giving us leisure to enjoy his stylistic sleights of hand.”
Times Literary Supplement
ABOUT ME: James McCreet
I’ve had three novels published by Macmillan and have written three more that are at various stages of being published (or not). I am a working author, always engaged in writing, researching or editing the next novel. 
 
I work as a lecturer on an MA Novel course: one of the very few in the UK that requires its students to write (and be marked on) a full, finished novel. This work entails teaching the basic elements of craft as well as advanced structural techniques and working with individuals through multiple drafts towards a 60,000-100,000-word manuscript. 
 
I am also a professional copywriter, producing a variety of corporate copy for businesses. I have been a journalist, a magazine editor and a sub-editor. I have had articles in many of the UK’s national newspapers and am a regular contributor to Writing Magazine
 
In summary, I make a living from writing. My own novels have been through the same rigorous editorial processes that I also teach and apply to others’ work. What I know, I have learned through practice and experience. I do what I say. 
 
I recommend that anyone attempting to write or edit a first novel should read my book on the subject: Before You Write Your Novel
FEEDBACK TYPE AND FORMAT
All feedback will be of the same standard that you might expect to receive on a good MA Creative Writing course or from a publisher’s editor. The first would cost you upwards of £3000; the second would typically be available only if you had a publishing contract. 
 
NOTE: This is not a proofreading service. It will not identify and correct every spelling or grammatical mistake. It will focus instead on style, technique and structure.
INITIAL SUBMISSION (up to 10,000 words) 
The majority of novels are turned down by publishers and agents because they are not read. They are not read because the initial pages show that the writing (and therefore the whole book) is not up to publishable standard. You cannot expect to be published until you raise your prose to this level. 
 
My feedback on the initial few thousand words will address (as relevant) such areas as:
Concept and story
Pace
Dialogue
Characterisation
Description and vocabulary
Punctuation (use and effect)
Layout
Notable grammatical points
Style and tone
Narrative approach
Publication potential
Suggestions and recommendations

FULL SUBMISSION (60,000-100,000 request only)
Should the initial sample prove promising, subsequent feedback on the entire novel would assume that the above criticism had been worked fully into the latest draft and focus more heavily on:
Concept and story
Pace
Chapter structure
Story structure and plottingy
Engagement techniques
Character development and arcs
Themes
Tonal variation
Suggestions and recommendations
Publication potential

FEEDBACK FORMAT 
This will be a document structured around the above subheadings with examples from your work where applicable. I may also add comments directly into the text if supplied as a Word document.
FEES
Up to 10,000 words: £320 
Includes follow-up emails to deal with any questions you may have. 
 
Full novel (by invitation only): £0.0075 per word (minimum 60,000 words) 
Includes follow-up emails to deal with any questions you may have. 
 
See FAQs for further information.
WHAT TO SUBMIT
A Word or pdf document of up to 10,000 words 
Ensure that your email address and name is somewhere on the document 
Do NOT send the entire novel unless invited 
Do NOT send other attendant documents 
HOW TO SUBMIT
Email your document to jamesmccreet at yahoo.co.uk
HOW TO PAY 
I will send you PayPal details so you can pay the fee 
See terms and conditions before paying anything
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT 
When payment has been confirmed, your extract will be processed with all reasonable haste. Feedback will be emailed back to you at the address supplied. You will be notified if the whole novel is invited. If you have questions regarding the feedback, we can discuss these by email or via Skype.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS 
All payments are non-refundable. 
The price paid is for one-off written feedback and email follow-up. 
The feedback is not a proofreading service. Individual errors will not be corrected. 
Your copyright remains yours. 
See FAQs for further information.
FAQ
How do you justify the fee?
I’m a published novelist, a professional copywriter, a regular columnist on writing matters, and a post-graduate lecturer in novel-writing. I make a living as a writer because I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about.
How do I know whether your criticism is worth my money?
My criticism is of the same quality and quantity that you would receive on a good MA Creative Writing course, or from a professional editor working with you on a final draft for publication. I know this because I’m paid to provide the first and I work with editors on the second. More importantly, I have proved the worth of my insight by applying it to my own work and being published. I practice what I preach.
Who reads my work?
I do: James McCreet. I employ no other editors. Many other editing sites say that your work will be read by ‘professionals’ or by ‘editors’. Who are these people? What is their experience? Are they writers, too?
Why only a few thousand words initially?
There’s a reason publishers employ interns and assistants to sift submissions: an intern can immediately see whether a piece of writing is of a publishable standard (we are all readers after all). Some novels simply never land on the editor’s desk. You need to ensure that your book meets the minimum standard so the maximum is read.
How long will it take? 
It might be a same-week response, or it might take a few weeks depending on demand. I will let you know if a lengthy delay looks likely. You might as well get used to this. When you start submitting your work to agents and publishers, you will enter that limbo of urgent expectation. I once waited ten months for an agent to say no (after initially showing great interest).
How much feedback will I get? 
It depends how much your submission requires. The better the piece, the less feedback you will get. If this is the case, you can be satisfied that you’re well on your way. I’d expect most submissions to require comments under all of the headings listed in FEEDBACK as well as comments in the text itself, depending on the format. In short, you’ll get as much as you need.
What kind of feedback can I expect? 
The only kind of feedback worth having is detailed, comprehensive, honest, constructive and insightful. It should be as objective as possible. It’s not about praise; it’s about diagnosis. Every piece of writing is akin to a piece of machinery whose moving parts are its plot, its characters, its scenes and its prose. If the machine isn’t working, we must identify and fix that wheeze, that buzz, that clank until the machine is purring flawlessly. General tips and comments are useless; every major flaw must be dealt with. See the FEEDBACK for more information.
What is the format of the feedback? 
A document with headings under which I will analyse your extract. It will use examples from the text where necessary and suggest ways to improve the prose if relevant. If you have submitted in Word format, I may write straight into the text with comments.
Will it be like the ‘Under the Microscope’ feature in Writing Magazine
No. That feature (which I write) takes apart a 300-word piece word by word, sentence by sentence, providing 1200 words of comment per 300 words submitted. If I were to provide the same service on 10,000 words, I would want upwards of £1000. I’m happy to do this, but I suspect that you are not.
Why do I have to submit a minimum of 60,000 words (if invited)? 
This is the minimum amount a publisher will typically accept, even as a novella (and most first novels are not novellas). In a similar sense, publishers are averse to publishing a very long book by a debut author (unless it’s exceptional). It’s a good idea to aim for 75,000-90,000 in a first novel.
Do you accept short stories or poetry? 
No poetry. That is an entirely different writing specialism of which I claim no expertise. I’m happy to look at short stories within the specified word count, though I am not a short-story writer. (That said, I did once win a £1700 prize for a 400-word story in a national newspaper competition).
Do you offer a proofing service? 
No. I will not be finding every single spelling or grammar mistake in your work. Proofing is an entirely different skill to writing or editing, and is best left to professionals. I will, however, identify elements of style, layout or vocabulary that might be improved. If you are persistently misusing semi-colons, I will make this clear, too.
What about my copyright? 
Your copyright remains your own.
Can I have a refund if I’m not happy with the feedback? 
No. Whether or not you are happy with the feedback (and the chances are that you will be ‘challenged’ rather than happy), I have spent time and care producing it. That’s where the money goes.
What if I have questions concerning the feedback? 
Feel free to email me with questions (within reason).
Can I resubmit the work after making changes? 
Of course, and this is advisable. However, the price for re-reading would be the same as the original version because the amount of work would be the same (actually, more because a degree of comparison would be necessary).
Why can’t I just send the whole novel straight away? 
If the first pages of your novel are not up to a publishable standard, no genuine editor or agent is going to read the whole thing. It is futile to edit an entire novel if the most basic elements are not working. No amount of fabulous plotting or brilliant ideas will counter-balance ineffective prose.
Can I send documents/synopses explaining my work? 
No. The writing stands on its own feet . . . or it doesn’t. If a piece can’t persuade, interest or entrance on its own, no amount of attendant words will make it better.
Can you tell me if the work is publishable? 
No. But I can tell you if it is of a publishable standard. The question of whether something finally gets published is an arcane calculus of factors including the market, personal tastes, competing titles, aggressive agents and blind luck. If your work is of a publishable standard, it’s ready to send out. (NOTE: 99% of submissions to agents/publishers are not of a publishable standard and therefore have no chance at all.)
Can you help me to get my work published? 
If I think the work is publishable, I know agents and publishers who would be happy to read it. That’s as much as I can do.
OTHER SERVICES
MENTORING
I am open to negotiating individual and bespoke mentoring services whereby I work with you on on a piece of work over time and with multiple submissions. Contact jamesmccreet at yahoo.co.uk for more details.








FREE TIPS
Errors in prose and structure tend to be broadly the same in all aspiring writers. Eradicate these and your writing becomes immediately more effective. Here’s my list culled from decades of teaching and learning:
PROSE
• Punctuation is a perpetual problem, infecting sentences with bad rhythm and syntax. If you can’t actually quote the rules behind a comma, a semi-colon or a dash, it’s almost certain that you’re misusing them. See RL Trask’s eminently simple Penguin Guide to Punctuation. 
• Grammar mistakes tend to crop up when you’re not even aware you’ve broken a rule. If you can’t see (and avoid) the error in the following sentence, its time to get a style guide: “In common with many older people, arthritis was a particular problem for Arthur.” 
• Clichés are a sign that you’re not writing well. A genuine writer always searches for the right word or the right term rather than lazily using a stock phrase that’s become threadbare with overuse. Clichés are shorthand − not writing. 
• Word order and clause order affect the emphasis and power of a sentence more than we sometimes realise. Compare: “I only like ice cream in the summer” and “I like only ice cream in the summer” and “I like ice cream only in the summer”. What’s the difference? And which sentence is probably wrong? 
• Paragraph length is not accidental. If you find yourself writing mostly long paras, it’s probably because you haven’t realised this fact. Paragraph length − along with sentence length − is one of the invisible methods of manipulating reader response. 
• Vocabulary is something of which most writers are proud. It’s a pity, then, that so many choose imprecise words that don’t perfectly describe what they intend. There’s no such thing as a perfect synonym; all words have different shades of meaning. Smell is not the same as aroma, perfume or scent. 
• Narrative perspective is one of the trickiest skills to master. Not just a simple choice of first, second or third person, but usually a multi-layered combination of the three along with various other techniques such as ‘interior monologue’ or ‘free-indirect address’. Get this wrong and your entire narrative falls flat. 
• Expositional balance . . . is a phrase I’ve just made up to describe the way you distribute your story between dialogue, description and narrative voice (authorial or character). This too, is not accidental. Inconsistency here allows the reader to fall between the gaps of what should be seamless storytelling. 
• Description is perhaps the most beloved tool among writers . . . and it shows. Whenever description looks like writing, it’s not working. 
• Dialogue is exceptionally useful, but often done badly because writers don’t commit to it fully. It’s at its best when used as a storytelling method in itself (rather than as a garnish to authorial control). 
STRUCTURE
• The commonest flaw in first novels is overreliance on the flashback as a storytelling technique, especially in the early chapters. This is often due to a certain paranoia in the author that the reader won’t wait. Wrong. It’s the writer’s job to make the reader want to wait. 
• Many first novels begin without a genuinely workable plan, building on sand until the entire edifice is unstable and the work goes into multiple drafts. Story, pace, plot and structure do not come together accidentally. They are foundations that must be understood before the work begins. 
• An idea is not the same thing as a story, and a story is not the same as a plot. None of these is the same as a narrative. Unless you understand the difference, it’s likely you’re already in trouble. 
• Are you thinking in terms of halves, thirds or quarters of your novel? Are you thinking in chapters? Are you thinking about scenes within chapters? Are you thinking about occurrence within scenes within chapters? A workable structure means seeing the novel microcosmically and macrocosmically. 
• How many stories does your novel have? How many pieces does each story have? How many character arcs are contained within, and how are they linked? Is there a thematic development? If you haven’t thought about such things, it’s likely your novel is suffering. 
• How quickly is your novel moving in chapter one? In chapter eight? In chapter seventeen? You may not have considered such questions, but your reader will . . . if they get as far as chapter seventeen. 
There are many, many more errors to commit. SUBMIT your work to discover exactly what yours are, or look at my book on first novels: Before You Write Your Novel.