Hi. I'm Melinda. I can help you debug your book.

Wait, what?

In software engineering, debugging is the process of stepping through your code line by line to identify problems. What's causing an incorrect result, an error, or a crash? How can you fix it? It may be a simple change, or it may require a substantial rearchitecture.

This is what I do for novel and story manuscripts. I will step through your book chapter by chapter, section by section, paragraph by paragraph, line by line, to identify problems and suggest solutions. I can help you identify plot holes, strengthen your characters, fix your pacing, and avoid logical flaws. I will help you debug your book and make it the best book it can be.


I offer developmental editing of sci-fi and fantasy novels and short stories.

Developmental editing, also sometimes called structural or substantive editing, is big-picture editing. It focuses on character development, plot, structure, world building, pacing, scene dynamics, etc. This type of editing is intended to strengthen and finesse the story and is typically the first phase of editing. You can expect to do substantial revision after receiving feedback from a developmental editor.

There are other types of editing, which I do not do. Line editing focuses on the use of language at the sentence and paragraph level. This type of editing can benefit authors who struggle with prose. Copyediting focuses on grammar, punctuation, and consistency with a particular code of style. You shouldn't do copyediting until you're finished with major revisions.

For an effective edit, the author, manuscript, and editor need to be a good fit for each other. I focus on sci-fi and fantasy because this is what I like to read, so I bring to the table substantial genre expertise and an inherent enthusiasm for this type of story. Intergalactic political intrigue? Aliens? FTL drives? Bring it on! Magic? Dragons? Oh yeah! (But, I don't do vampires, werewolves, or zombies, and I don't do horror or anything whose purpose is to scare. That isn't to say that stories with these things can't be great stories; it's just that I'm not a good fit for them.) I also highly favor character-driven stories that really get into the heads of the characters, so if you don't want to be told to add more interior monologue and heighten your characters' personal conflict, we're probably not a great fit.


When I do a developmental edit of your manuscript, this is what you can expect:

  • A copy of your manuscript with thorough and comprehensive comments in the margins
  • A detailed editorial letter with a summary of your manuscript's strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for revisions
  • For a novel, a book map, which is a spreadsheet breaking down the structure of your manuscript scene by scene. I will not provide a book map for short stories or novel chapters unless specifically requested.
  • Optionally, a video call to discuss my edits after you've had a chance to absorb them
  • Optionally (and within reason), follow-up brainstorming chats if you just need to bounce ideas off someone during your revisions

My feedback will include a lot of questions. Why? My questions are intended to alert you, the author, to potential problems and opportunities for improvement. They're meant to get you thinking and spark ideas.


  • I promise to respect your manuscript. No matter what state it's in, my goal is to help you realize your intentions. My criticism will be constructive, polite, encouraging, respectful, and realistic. My job is not to judge, but to help.
  • I promise thoroughness and attention to detail. By the time we're done, I will know this manuscript nearly as well as you do.
  • I promise to honor my commitments to you. I will finish my edits and deliver them to you in a timely manner.
  • I promise confidentiality. Your manuscript is yours and yours alone until you're ready to release it into the wild.


Melinda's thorough and insightful analyses are exactly the sort of "debugging" that was needed to take my work to the next level. Plotwise, she showed what worked well and what needed work, what elements were crystal clear and what elements fell short of providing a satisfying conclusion for the reader. She asked insightful questions and offered clear and actionable advice to improve characters, pacing, conflicts and resolutions, and every other aspect of storytelling. It has been a fantastic experience working with her, she has elevated my work and helped me to craft far superior stories as a result.

- Stephen Chappell, author of "A Random Act of Kindness", "Periwinkles"

Melinda's thorough book debugging is truly a magical experience. We began our correspondence on Critters, and since then the insights and logical questions Melinda has left for my writing have greatly helped me to reshape it into something stronger, more cohesive, and more sound. No stone is left unturned, and Melinda's insights have led to deeper storytelling, cleaner dynamics, and helped me to understand where I was being a confused author stuck in my own head. It has been an all around just a fantastic experience. It's a privilege and a pleasure to work with this amazing person, and I count my stars very lucky.

- Marley Nox, author of "Apsu's Children", "Sunstrider", "The Founder's Eyes", "The Sword and the Beast", and Synchronicity

Melinda has provided me with some of the most thorough and detailed critiques for my work, often pointing out things I myself had noticed in the back of my mind, but needed someone to put them in the right words and push them to the forefront. Her evaluations are thorough and engaging, and never condescending. She easily identifies the story's larger intended themes and points out how they might be clarified, as well as noting the smaller little details that need fine tuning.

- N. M. Dudack, author of "Twisting the Knife", "See You Soon", and "Worth the Price"

Virtually everyone who believes they can publish a book without a serious whole-novel critique is likely to produce an inferior product. This service is what Melinda provided for me. Apart from the slew of detailed comments concerning specific issues, the main benefit was her describing in some detail her perception of the world and characters I had created. This allowed me to see either areas where my world-building had not been effective, or, worse, where I had assumed the reader would take something as a given when that was maybe a step too far! As a result, the final version turned out, much to my surprise, to be several thousand words longer than the completed draft, and, I feel, a much superior book as a result. Thank you, Melinda!

- Malcolm Mann, author of Black Box

Melinda has a keen eye for what makes stories tick. Her critiques are helpful, detailed, and insightful, both at the macro level (plot, characterization, theme) and the micro level (symbology, word choice, sentence structure). She regularly goes above and beyond and has helped me make substantial improvements to a number of my stories.

- J. M. Eno (@jmenowrites), author of "Cronus" and "The Tale of the Rat King"

contact me

I currently edit on a volunteer basis and do not accept solicitations directly from authors unless I've previously edited your work or you're a personal friend. I lurk on critters.org offering pro bono edits whenever something comes along that seems like a good fit.

But, you can still contact me just to say hi or ask a question.

Have I edited some of your work? Did you have a good experience? Leave a testimonial!

about me

Editorial Arts Academy badge

I've been volunteer editing and critiquing weekly on critters.org since 2020, and I completed the Editorial Arts Academy's Developmental Editing for Fiction course in early 2022. I have edited eight novels and over 75 short stories and novel excerpts.

I've been a voracious reader since childhood, and pro bono editing is my way of giving back to the community of authors whose wonderful creations I enjoy. I want to pay it forward and help the next generation of great authors hone their skills.

That said, editing is a highly skilled profession, and professional editors absolutely deserve to get paid. I don't want to undercut anybody's business or to undervalue their skills, which is why I don't solicit business. If you have the funds, please hire an editor and pay them what they're worth! But, I know that in reality many authors legitimately cannot afford to hire a developmental editor, and I hope I can serve some of these and help them kickstart their careers.

When I'm not reading and editing books, I am a software engineer who develops GIS software for mapping and spatial analysis. Although it may not seem like software engineering and fiction editing have much in common, they actually do! In my job as a software engineer, I focus on the details of the user workflow, figuring out how someone can accomplish a task from start to finish. Both software engineering and developmental editing require extreme attention to detail with a focus on how each individual component contributes to the whole. Both require me to look at structure and cause-and-effect logic.

Learn more about the rest of my life.