Alexandra Shelley

Illuminated Manuscripts























































































Editorial Services

General Procedures



I work with authors whose goal is publication. They range from seasoned writers (including a novelist with five bestsellers under her belt, a former managing editor of The New York Times, best-selling non-fiction authors); with the same authors on two or three books; and with writers who have never published a word but who have a compelling story to tell.

I assist with books at all stages, from guiding creation to overseeing a top-to-bottom revision. My aim is to provide the kind of direction and encouragement that allows the author to do the bulk of the revision him or herself.

1) Global suggestions

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are," admitted Somerset Maugham. Each novel Iíve worked with has its own exigencies, requiring distillation, augmentation, or reshaping Ė often all three of these in different places.

The first step in the editing process is an overview read resulting in an editorial report pertaining to the book as a whole. The revision suggestions cover structure, pacing, characterization, dialogue, setting, voice. The goals of this stage include ratcheting up the dramatic tension, deepening portrayals of characters and their evolving relationships, and further exploiting the setting so that the book opens a window on a world that readers have never seen in quite this way.

For memoirs, biographies, and other true-life stories, I often function as an architectural consultant, helping to build a narrative structure upon which to place the complex material of reality. I suggest ways to expand the research or further plumb personal experience.

In all genres, I note ways the prose might be tightened throughout, as well as passages where the language really sings, in order to help the author become more conscious of the strengths of his or her style.

2) Margin notes

Depending on the authorís wishes, I will either send the manuscript back for revision after the global suggestions, or do a more detailed edit of each chapter. This often entails flagging passages to consider deleting, condensing, or moving; suggesting potential new scenes to build irresistible rising action, or ways to expand existing climactic ones so the reader is right there with the characters.

In non-fiction books, Iíll mark junctures where more information might be added or insights could be further developed.

3) Line editing

"The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug." -Mark Twain

Once the book takes its final shape, I work with the author on the sentences, helping to find the right word to replace a nearly right word; prune dead wood; keep the dialogue percolating; modulate the tone where it might be flat or too loud; vary sentence structures to create texture; hone the images and analogies.

I also check that the author didnít jettison any important material, characters, or plot twists between the first draft and this one.

4) Packaging

ďI was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.Ē -Oscar Wilde

Perhaps one of the most useful functions of an independent editor is to help the writer know when the book is done. I advise my clients on when to give their books legs, and provide strategic advice about which agents or publishing houses to approach (though Iím not a conduit to any one agent or acquisitions editor).

Having read many hundreds of query letters, synopses and proposals in my years at Bridge Works, Iím able to help compose these calling cards.

If you're interested:


Send at least the first 20 pages of the manuscript, preferably as an attachment, with the word EDIT in the e-mail subject line. Please also send a 1-page description, including:

*the plot (if a novel) or the subject (if narrative non-fiction);

*what kind of help youíd like from an editor;

*any prior publications.

I will let you know if I can be of assistance and, if so, provide a fee quote and time frame.

Selected Books Edited

by Kathryn Stockett - bestseller
by Martha Hall Kelly - bestseller
by Emily Giffin - bestseller
by Alan Isler - National Jewish Book Award winner