Dorothy Wall's Writing Consulting Services

Manuscript critique

Developmental/line editing

Proposal writing/editing

Query writing/editing

Assistance with submissions or self-publishing

Ongoing writing support


I always tell my clients that a good writing coach is someone who can enter your creative world, help you move the furniture around, then slip away, leaving that world more vibrant and compelling, but very much your own. I want my clients to feel I've understood the core impulses of their project and helped them develop it to its fullest potential. Whether publication is a goal or simply finishing that book you've always wanted to write, I'll help with the nuts and bolts as well as the art of writing.


What clients say:

"Dorothy Wall made me the writer I am today. I had voice and drive and stories to tell, but she gave me discipline, and my stories shape. Her advice was practical and astute."
~ Patricia Harman, The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir (Beacon Press)

"And another agent is interested! [That agent] said in an email yesterday: `You did a fantastic job on your proposal, and I now have a clear picture of the book you are writing.' That 'fantastic proposal' is many thanks to you."
~ Peggy Vincent, Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife (Scribner)

"As I said to G., after reading your remarks and suggestions, `I love Dorothy Wall. She really goes right to the important questions and doesn't let me get away with anything shoddy or half worked out.' What an amazing and tricky and endlessly fascinating undertaking trying to write a good novel is! I appreciate more than I can say your intelligence, high standards, humor, knowledge about how fiction works and willingness to take pains. I've said that before, but it keeps being true, and I keep being impressed by my luck in having you to work with."
~ Victoria Brown, Ph.D., On Balance

"Thanks again, Dorothy, for your invaluable assistance. You're so sharp and quick—I can't imagine a writing project now without you!"
~ Joan Steinau Lester, Fire in My Soul: Eleanor Holmes Norton (Atria Books)

"Dorothy reached through to the heart of what I was trying to say and brought out the best in my writing. She opened a door to self-expression for which I shall always be grateful."
~ Marilyn Barrett, Ph.D., Creating Eden: The Garden as a Healing Space (HarperCollins)

"Dorothy's 'feel' for words is extraordinary. We came to trust her judgment completely. And best of all, she made us feel we are indeed writers!"
~ Barbara Shulgold and Lynne Sipiora, Dear Barbara, Dear Lynne: The True Story of Two Women in Search of Motherhood (Addison-Wesley)

"I just received today this copy of a review from Publishers Weekly...Both the agent and my editor sent me copies saying how excited they were. Needless to say, I am, too. So, once again, I want to thank you for all your support, feedback and guidance! You were the first person who didn't know me to read the manuscript and tell me it was marketable and worth pursuing. But I doubt if it would have gotten this far were it not for your input. I am very appreciative, Dorothy!"
~ Ann Davidson, Alzheimer's, A Love Story: One Year in My Husband's Journey (Carol Publishing Group)

"Once again, thanks much for your feedback. It's most instructive and extremely valuable. You have made the book much better. I truly appreciate all you've done for me over the years. I feel I owe about 85% of my writing ability, little as it might be, to you."
~ Dick Roth, No, It's Not Hot in Here, A Husband's Guide to Understanding Menopause (North Star Publications)

"'Editing' doesn't begin to describe the help that you've given me. You have been teaching me to read differently and thus improve my writing. And your love of words has been inspiring. Your coaching is just what I've been looking for and didn't dare hope to find. Your feedback and encouragement has meant more than you may realize to me—someone who had not before been comfortable with writing. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher."
~ Susan Nakata, Of a Certain Age: The Beauty of Aging Flowers

Frequently asked questions:

What types of manuscripts do you work on?

I work on literary and mainstream fiction, memoir, poetry, creative nonfiction, and other trade nonfiction, including travel, biography, gardening, health, women's issues, relationships, self-help, nature/ecology, cultural/social issues, mind/body/spirit, parenting, psychology, communication. I don't work on dissertations or scholarly work, business or technical writing, or genre fiction, such as fantasy, science fiction or romance.

If I were to send my novel to you, what would you do?

The first step of our work together is usually a developmental edit, that is, a review of the manuscript with the larger dramatic issues in mind. I begin by reading through your manuscript carefully, marking comments as I go. I read with an eye to all the elements of fiction: dramatic structure, scene construction, momentum and tension, pacing, plot development, character development, use of subplots, handling of time, beginnings and endings, voice, use of language, and so forth. I note on the page places where these various elements are working well and where they are not. I look at large issues, ie., places where tension lags, and small, ie., overuse of flat, generic verbs. For these smaller details, I mark examples only, as this is not the time to do a line edit of the whole novel.

After I've finished reading and marking comments on the manuscript, I write a two- or three-page single-spaced critique letter, in which I address the manuscript's strengths and weaknesses and give suggestions for revision. Then we have a phone consultation, usually one to one-and-a-half hours, in which we discuss my responses and suggestions. This exchange is always a creative and stimulating part of the process. You have a chance to ask questions; we brainstorm and explore the possibilities and directions for further work. Then I send back to you the marked manuscript and critique letter. You'll come away with a thorough understanding of the issues that need to be addressed in revision and a specific blueprint for how to dive back in. If we continue working together, we usually focus on a smaller piece of the manuscript at one time. I'm also available for phone conversations and feedback as you continue to work. You should think of me at this point as someone who has immersed in your manuscript, knows it and your characters, and is available as an ongoing sounding board as you proceed.

Can I send only part of my novel for your review?

Yes, some writers begin by sending me only the first fifty pages or so of their manuscript. Though I can't comment on the larger structural issues or on your story's development when I read only the beginning, those first fifty pages always reveal a great deal about the way you're approaching your story and the way you write. Any significant problems usually appear early on. We can have a fruitful discussion based on an initial section of your work.

How long do you work with clients?

This is entirely up to you. Some clients want an initial critique only, then go on to finish their work themselves. Others want ongoing feedback as they develop and complete their project. I may work with someone once, for six months or six years. Some clients come back for input on successive projects, so I follow their career and work over time. These long-term relationships can be very satisfying.

How could you help me with my memoir?

Memoir writing relies heavily on fictional technique, telling a good story. As with fiction, I read the manuscript carefully with an eye to voice and dramatic structure. Is the structure the best for the story you're trying to tell? How do you handle time? Are you trying to cover too much? Do you keep the voice from lapsing into overview or summary? Who is your audience? Have you pushed the material as far as you might in terms of probing the multiple layers of your story? These are just some of the questions we'll raise. Since getting the voice and structure right is crucial, it's often useful to start with a review of 50 pages and a summary of the rest of the narrative. The important issues will be evident in these initial pages. And yes, it's better to get feedback sooner rather than later as you're working.

How do you work with nonfiction writers?

Depending on the project, your credentials and the market, nonfiction may be sold on the basis of a book proposal, or publishers may want to see a completed manuscript. We'll talk about which makes the most sense for you, and I'll help with either one. If you're working on a book proposal, I'll help you complete a superb, polished proposal that is geared to the market and will grab an editor's attention. I recommend that you begin by getting a copy of Jane Friedman's informative book, Publishing 101: A First-Time Author's Guide to Getting Published, Marketing and Promoting Your Book, and Building a Successful Career. Another insightful resource for nonfiction writers is Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published, by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. After you put together a draft proposal, you send it to me for review. As with fiction, I read through your draft, writing comments as I go, and then we have a phone consultation to talk about the work that remains to be done. We usually go back and forth several times before your proposal is ready to be sent to an agent. If you want to complete the whole manuscript, the process is very similar to working with fiction or memoir. We look at voice and structure, considering your subject and the audience. We examine what you include and what you leave out, the organization, the way you engage the reader, storytelling vs. information, and much more, going through several drafts until the manuscript is where it needs to be.

Can you help me find an agent or publisher?

Yes. I stay informed about agents, publishing trends and what publishers are looking for. Once your manuscript is ready to be submitted, I help writers compile a list of prospective agents and guide writers through the process of submission. I help with query letters, and for fiction writers, a plot synopsis. I can answer your questions about how to find information about agents, how to contact them, what to include in your submission package, how to handle multiple submissions and other concerns that might arise. If your manuscript doesn't need to be agented, for instance if it's a poetry or specialty press manuscript, I help you navigate the process of submitting directly to appropriate publishers.

Do you work with writers who plan to self-publish?

Yes. I would work with you in the same way that I work with other fiction and nonfiction writers, helping you to prepare the best manuscript possible. I don't assist with copyediting or production.

How do I contact you if I'm interested in your consulting services?

Please email a project description of up to 2 pages. No attachments please.

Published books by Dorothy Wall's clients

Selected List

William Hackman, Out of Sight: The Los Angeles Art Scene of the Sixties (Other Press); Lisa Shaw-Brawley, Only When I Sleep: My Family's Journey through Cancer (Health Communications, Inc.); Peter Gray Scott, Where the Road Begins: The Saga of Big Sur's Pioneer Families, and Environmentalism in America (Northwind); Joan Steinau Lester, Fire in My Soul: Eleanor Holmes Norton (Atria Books); Arlene Blum, Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life (Scribner); Patricia Harman, The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir (Beacon Press); Linda Blachman, Another Morning: Voices of Truth and Hope from Mothers with Cancer (Seal Press); Peggy Vincent, Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife (Scribner); Sofia Shafquat, Shadow Man (The Permanent Press); Judith Turiel, Beyond Second Opinions: Making Choices about Fertility Treatment (University of California Press); Fay Afaf Kanafani, Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman (M.E. Sharpe); Ann Davidson, Alzheimer's, A Love Story: One Year in My Husband's Journey (Carol Publishing Group); Mark Rauzon, Isles of Refuge: Wildlife and History of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (University of Hawai'i Press); Stacey Marie Kerr, MD, Homebirth in the Hospital: Integrating Natural Childbirth with Modern Medicine (Sentient Publications); Madeline Moore, As You Desire (Spinsters/Aunt Lute); Susan Caperna Lloyd, No Pictures in My Grave: A Spiritual Journey in Sicily (Mercury House); Naomi Epel, Writers Dreaming: 20 Writers Talk about Their Dreams (Crown Books); Dick Roth, No, It's Not Hot in Here: A Husband's Guide to Understanding Menopause (North Star Publications); Marilyn Barrett, Creating Eden: The Garden as a Healing Space (HarperCollins); Barbara Shulgold, Lynne Sipiora, Dear Barbara, Dear Lynne: The True Story of Two Women in Search of Motherhood (Addison-Wesley)

Contact Dorothy Wall


You may also be interested in Dorothy Wall's coauthored book Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction »

Read Dorothy Wall's Tips for Writing Creative Nonfiction and Memoir »