Manuscript Critique:
Ellen Akins

Open to: Fiction (Fantasy, Humor, or Literary) and Memoir

Word Limit: 15,000 in four submissions of 3,500 each. 

What You’ll Submit: 3,500 words of prose every 3-4 weeks for 12-15 weeks. Submissions can be new chapters for an ongoing work or new drafts of work that has already been reviewed.  

What You’ll Get

One-on-one intensive work concentrating on your work-in-progress. Whether you're an aspiring, apprentice, or accomplished writer, my goal as a teacher, coach, and editor is to help you get to the best possible version of what you're trying to do. Fantasy, comedy, personal history, or literary fiction with a capital L: if there's a novel, stories, or memoir that you want to work on, or can't quite figure out, we'll take that on. If you're just getting started and want to improve, that's what we'll work on. If you're all over the place, we'll try to find a focus. This will be, in short, whatever you want to make of it—a sort of one-on-one MFA program.

We'll start with your preliminary submission—a sample to give me an idea of what you're doing—and an exchange to determine what you want to accomplish. Then, over the course of 12 weeks, you'll submit work of up to 3500 words (give or take a few hundred) every 3 weeks, and within a week I'll get back to you with a reading, critique, and advice. You might submit sections of a novel, one after another, or the same chapter again and again, or one story over and over (& it'll be better each time, really), or a series of stories, or a full memoir or novel or novella to be considered over time. What you want to work on is what I want to work on—and make the most of.

It's up to you to get as much as you can or want to out of our 12 weeks. And then, if you want to continue, we'll talk about that. If you're stuck and can't make the deadlines for your submissions, we'll discuss an extension—but if this goes beyond 3 weeks, you'll have to sign up for a new round. 

Price: $2100

Turnaround: 12–15 weeks. 

Ellen Akins Manuscript Critique

Class Level: Hourly

Base Price: $2,100.00

Testimonials of Working with Ellen

"An acclaimed author, Ellen Akins is the prefect synthesis of serious scholar, first-rate editor and inspiring writing coach. Simply stated, I am a published author now, largely because of Ellen’s efforts on my behalf."Brian Bradford, author of Greetings from Gravipause 

“Ellen Akins displays the same deep strengths as a teacher and editor that she does as an author; a bottomless mental data bank of literary craft and artistry, a quick and keen understanding of where a story needs to go and the tactics required to get it there. She is a gently direct, specific, and supportive guide on that journey, and some may even find the experience of working with her – as I did -- transformative.”Bill Mesce, author of Inside the Rise of HBO and the Harry Voss Trilogy (The Advocate, Officer of the Court, & A Cold and Distant Place)

"A widely published and award-winning writer, Ellen Akins cares as much about the work of those she coaches as she does her own novels, stories, essays, and reviews. Her judgment is keen and her insights about strategies for improvement very perceptive. She digs in on matters from overall structure to line editing. The results are shown in the literary success of many she has advised."Walter Cummins, publisher, Serving House Books; editor, Serving House Journal; and author of Habitat: Stories of Bent Realism

"Working with Ellen meant so much more than finding a keen eye to critically examine my novel. Her skill with the mechanics of language and her breadth of literary knowledge provided me with suggestions that resonated, and her remarkable talent as an artist was evident as I incorporated her critiques into my manuscript. The final result was not just an edited manuscript, but rather an authentic story that had stayed true to my vision, even through the process of reconstruction.Cara Luecht, author of Gathered Waters & Soul Painter

 "Ellen Akins is an extraordinary, award-winning fiction writer and critic, as well as a writing coach and editor for the lucky few. She has also taught in the MFA Program of Fairleigh Dickinson University for ten years and is a writing mentor of choice for many students, graduates, and for a number of her colleagues, myself included. I frequently run a manuscript past Ellen, and her advice, both in general and the particulars, is always right on. As a writing coach, mentor, editor, or for a hands-on critique, Ellen Akins is prime."—Thomas E. Kennedy, author of the Copenhagen Quartet (In the Company of Angels, Falling Sideways, Beneath the Neon Egg, & Kerrigan in Copenhagen)

Ellen Akins is the author of the novels Home Movie (Simon & Schuster), Little Woman and Public Life (HarperCollins) and Hometown Brew (Alfred A. Knopf) and the short story collection World Like a Knife (Johns Hopkins University Press). She has published short stories in the Georgia, Southern, Missouri, and Southwest Reviews, which (the last two) awarded her their biennial short fiction awards. Her work has also appeared in the online publications Perigee, Serving House Journal, and The Millions, and she has written reviews for numerous publications including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and is a regular contributor to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Ellen is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Wisconsin Arts Board. She has taught at Johns Hopkins, Western Michigan University, Northland College, and, for ten years, in the low-residency MFA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Cornucopia, Wisconsin. 

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Manuscript Critique Editors

Who do I work with? 

The best way to review what you'd get working with each editor is to review their specific page, but here is a summary of what each editor offers with general pricing. If you would like to contact an editor with specific questions before purchasing, email and we will forward your questions to them.

Prose: Fiction & Nonfiction
  • Ellen Akins: Fiction & Memoir Manuscript Coaching ($2,100)
  • Lesley Arimah: Short Stories ($300 + 5 cents/word)
  • Ben Barnhart: Fiction (short stories and novels); Nonfiction; YA and Middle-Grade Fiction ($250 + 2 cents/word)
  • Bruce Berglund: Short, Long, or Book-Length Nonfiction ($250 + 2 cents/word)
  • Patricia Weaver Francisco: Short and Long Prose, Fiction and Nonfiction ($300 + 1.5 cents/word)
  • Erin Hart: Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction—Short or Novel-Length; Query Letters ($150 + 1.5 cents/word)
  • Heather McPherson: Book-Length Creative Nonfiction (including memoir, family history, essay, literary journalism, etc.) ($250 + 1.25 cents/word)
  • Lyda Morehouse: Book-Length Science Fiction and Fantasy ($250 + $1.75 cents/word)
  • Lee Oglesby: Creative nonfiction essays and book-length manuscripts ($125 + 1.5 cents/word)
  • Esther Porter: Short, Long, or Novel-Length Fiction or Nonfiction ($300 + 2.5 cents/word)
  • Kathryn Savage: MFA application personal statements, residency and fellowship personal statements, short fiction, flash fiction, and prose poems ($300 + 2 cents/word)
  • Sarah Stonich: Short, Long, or Novel-Length Fiction or Nonfiction ($300 + 1.75 cents/word) or Query Letters ($130)
  • Stanley Trollip: Crime Fiction—Short or Novel-Length ($100 + 1.75 cents/word) or Query Letters ($110)
Screen- and Playwriting
  • Cristina Pippa: Short or Feature-length Screenplays and Plays ($50 + $3.50/page); Screenplay Treatment ($210)
  • Sarah Stonich: Screenplay Critique ($400 + 3.75/page)
  • Kathryn Kysar: Poetry Manuscripts ($100 + $12.50/page), Marketing Plan ($560)
  • Jude Nutter: Poetry Manuscripts ($100 + $17.50/page)
Children's and Young Adult
Offerings for Teens