Heartwood Policies and faqs

General policies

  • Editor retains right of refusal on delivery of manuscript sample/partial.
  • Nonrefundable deposit of 50% must be paid on signing of contract, the remainder must be paid within one week of delivery of edits.
  • Scheduling may change +/- 2 weeks without penalty, but a rescheduling fee outside the above is $50 per reschedule.
  • The editor’s name should not be used without signed agreement.
  • Sensitivity concerns will be flagged for referral to authenticity readers, and content warnings must be provided prior to editing agreement.
  • Payment plans are available but require paying in full prior to delivery of notes.
  • Full manuscript projects must provide a 5p sample, vision statement, and synopsis along with application for edits.
  • Line and copyedits will be returned with tracked changes, but author must apply changes themself.
  • Email communication outside of scheduling and contract count toward coaching time of package.
  • No money will ever be paid to client by editor.

genres considered

I am a fiction editor, so please do not send me nonfiction articles, manuscripts, or memoirs. Of the following genres, I work in middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult. I am willing to consider select picture book or chapter book projects.

  • Science fiction
  • Fantasy (soft or low, no epic quests please)
  • Horror
  • Paranormal
  • Contemporary
  • Speculative
  • Thriller
  • Mystery
  • Historical
  • General fiction


  • 10% for underrepresented authors
  • 5% for verified referral
  • 5% for repeat client with new project
  • 5% for booking developmental and line edits together


Q: BUT JESS! Can’t I just run betas or swap with my CP?

A: Certainly! Do that! But let’s not pretend that’s “free,” for you or your trusted readers.

Hiring an editor whose sole agenda is helping improve your work on your timeframe can not only save you a lot of time, but it can save you a lot of heartache and confusion too.

It takes a lot of time and energy to prepare a beta, from finding people willing and available, whittling those volunteers down to the right audience for the project, determining what questions to ask, to understanding how to process their answers. I will always encourage betas and CPs, just like I’ll always try to share my best tips for finding and utilizing them. Learning how to run a beta is an acquired skill, and it comes naturally to very few. That time and attention may be better spent learning craft and finishing projects.

Furthermore, in the case of swapping full manuscripts, that’s a lot of trust and commitment to put in a virtual stranger. Schedules often conflict, authors get ghosted, and that’s barely brushing the surface of difficulties that can arise from swaps. CPs (critique partners), while wonderful and you should get some, are people too. They may not be able to focus on your work with the attention you need in a given time. Even if they can, misinformation about “best practices” abounds in writing communities, and the feedback received can run the gamut between weak sauce comments and empty praise to misguided advice never intended for your target audience or relevant to your vision or project.

Q: Do you accept payment plans?

A: Yes! Please refer to policies for more information on payment plans.

Q: Do you do second pass edits?

A: Yes, but second pass edits are only included in the price of specific packages. For an individualized quote, please schedule a consultation through email.



Deep Prose and Clear Voice

(pulled from a note to a CP)

My main focus for vocal depth is finding places that need a boost to elevate the prose from (blocking and action) to “literature.”

Not just facts, but poetry.

The first layer is “What’s a cooler/more interesting way to X…?”

Second layer is “What’s a way to tie this description/phrase to the story theme/aesthetic/tone/plot?”

Third layer, and the only one that gets approval** for my own work into final drafts, is “How/what does X (description/phrase) mean to my narrator/speaker, and how would They frame X?”

**because no matter how awesome a phrase might be, if it doesn’t sound like it comes from my narrator’s voice, then it could throw the reader off at worst, but will weaken a reader’s connection to the narrator at best.

Page by page, I seek out a wide-angle thematic balance, and–when possible– book-wide character themes. Like, say romantic interest has a hard personality but a vulnerable ego, then I might craft their descriptions to relay that directly or indirectly by which devices I choose (maybe they’re compared to melons or maybe I just keep adjectives about their physical actions “crisp and brittle” while keeping descriptions of their voice “soft”).

I tend to go broad with these when it comes to characterization or repeat settings, sticking with things like seasons or basic elements (water, fire, +), so it doesn’t feel forced or too obvious.Also, the broader the theme, the greater span of sensory experiences and vocabulary range to use in expanding the character’s visceral reactions and word choice.

Random thing, but it’s best, for most readers apparently, to save the most intense descriptive language for moments when the narrator is first describing something (unless that scene is very active), or when it’s an emotional moment that the language can help bolster with “this is important” energy.

Hot tip: use your narrator’s zoom lens to spot concrete details, flaws, or specificity, rather than trying to describe everything anew or “completely.” Better to describe a character’s lone mismatched button than their entire outfit. Even when the narrative point is “excess,” attention can get lost easily in lists of facts, so the zoom is a writer’s best friend in that regard.

Character Connection Tools & Exercises

(that I depend on)

These tools work anywhere in a story, but I find they’re especially useful in early pages in forming a strong link between the MC and the reader, so that, by page 5+, the MC could just about do anything, and the reader will be like, “Of course they did that; that’s why I love them.”

Start the character with a clear goal and complication. I’m not talking about “Big Story Goal,” ie. Main Story Mission, I’m talking about a small scene goal that demonstrates who the character is and what they care about.

The bigger the conflict in the opening scenes,

the more personal that goal should be to balance it.

A quiet opening scene might get away with, “I just want to read this article and finish my coffee in peace without distractions.” A more active scene, with fighting, fleeing, and high stakes stuff, will need something much more personal to establish the reader’s link, like, “I can’t get caught/die NOW, just when I’m finally on the verge of X/personal goal.”

Some of the most common writing advice will seem to contradict this, things like “start in action” and “show don’t tell.”

But “start in action” actually means “start with conflict/tension” rather than, necessarily, high-stakes action. Without making us care about the character first, all that energy and action is likely to go right past the reader, who’s still trying to figure out why should keep reading *this* character’s story. Starting action-heavy makes that extra difficult for the reader to see, because we’ve got the “what” without a “who” or “why,” so leave readers as many clues as the prose can hold.

And “show don’t tell” is a racist construct for one, but it’s also totally unhelpful unless the character is fully established already and their motivations already made abundantly clear.

quick and dirty trick is

REGULARLY pair a show with a tell

to clue the reader into why and what XYZ means.

This is REALLY helpful if you’re ND like me, and your/your characters’ reasons for doing things aren’t the same as neurotypical people/characters expect.

When the narrator notices someone else gesturing a certain way, don’t just show the gesture, allow the narrator to interpret it for the reader. When the narrator makes a decision or reacts to something, tell why and what’s going through their head. It feels clunky at first, extra. But with practice, it can open up new avenues to connect with your characters and readers.

This especially matters when it comes to big character decisions; keep the reader close by making sure they know the narrator’s reasoning/logic train and sense the emotional complications that coincide.

For first chapters, and particularly first pages, no matter WHAT’S happening, keep the narrator in focus, front and center, because they’re the one responsible for ushering the reader into the world, situation, setting, scene, everything…

Start with them, even if it’s just a single line to establish POV and ensure that the MC is the reader’s first view of the story, and their narrative voice is the first heard.


  • If the character doesn’t have a natural goal in the opening scene, invent one. Or three. Play.
  • Write a bunch of sentences from the MC’s POV and voice, having them say who they are, what they want, and what they’re doing. I mean, a BUNCH. Push yourself outside the character’s comfort zone and experiment, in their voice, and play with how they’d explain their situation based on different moods. (My favorites– silly, regretful, angry, annoyed, sleepy, sad.)
  • Test it out.
  • Copy the first chapter into a new file and get to highlighting. Mark EVERY TIME the character makes a choice or reacts involuntarily. If the reason for the choice or reaction is undeniably clear, unmark it (ie. Character’s falling and they move somehow to protect themself).
  • If the reason ISN’T in the text, hit enter, and leave some spaces on the page to play with the question WHY? (The spaces actually help to carve out a breath for you as the writer.)
  • Insert an explanation. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just clear and in character.

Doing this sort of craft play often leads writers to identifying moments they rushed through, but remember you have complete control over the timing. A split second can equal a chapter’s worth of words as much as a short line can.

Usually these exercises open up a shitton of craft realizations, but YMMV.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a story is never just about “what happened,” but “to whom it happened.” Readers care because they become invested in that Who, and character connection flows directly from your Who’s goal and what it means to them.