Join the nearly 300 serious creative writers who have worked one-on-one with me, award-winning author, writing teacher and developmental editor, Joan Dempsey.

My painstaking feedback will help you not only with your current writing project, but with every future manuscript; you'll get a thorough, written critique and specific guidance on how to polish your work so it's ready for publication.

  • I look forward to getting to know you and your writing!

Why Get Feedback?

You're not certain you're on the right track and need guidance before you continue.

You've gotten conflicting feedback and need another, professional opinion.

You've done all you can and need to know what still needs to be revised.

You think you're ready to submit to agents or publishers but want to be 100% sure.

Click Here to Discover the Type of Feedback You'll Receive

Here's What You'll Receive

  1. Detailed margin notes throughout your manuscript that identify what’s working and what’s not.
  2. Suggestions about big picture issues like the authenticity and consistency of the narrative voice, the plot, theme and story, structure, setting, characterization, point of view, and more.
  3. An assessment of your writing “tics” or habits, with suggestions for avoiding them in the next draft.
  4. Sentence-level suggestions for cutting out unnecessary words that clutter your prose, and guidance for using those suggestions.

Why Work With Joan?

One of "5 More Writers Over 50" to Watch (Poets & Writers)

This Is How It Begins, A Novel by Joan Dempsey

Independent Publisher Awards Bronze Medalist, 2018

Lambda Literary Award Finalist, 2018

Sarton Women's Book Award Finalist, 2018

Foreword Indies 2017 Book of the Year Award Finalist

Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award Winner, 2017

  • Terrific edits, Joan! Now I can finally see where I’m overwriting and underwriting. I know just where to streamline and where to amplify, which is such a relief; you helped me find the confidence I needed to keep writing. What more could an aspiring crime thriller novelist ask for? Thanks again.  —Maureen C. Berry, author of the forthcoming memoir 'Hurricanes, Handcuffs, Pepper Spray & Scrambled Eggs'
  • I sought you out because I could no longer identify which details in my manuscript might benefit from an additional look – I was too close to it. Now I can see sentence level opportunities for improvement as well as thematic gaps I can fill in. My work is stronger on every level! Shannon Huffman Polson, author of 'North of Hope'
  • Thanks for your excellent help, Joan! I appreciate how you saw some of the intention behind my piece while at the same time giving me a few specific points on which I can improve. I will absolutely use those suggestions as I revise the rest of the manuscript. —Tim Queeney, author of 'George in London'
  • Now I can see Katie Reeves and the Dragon’s Heart through fresh eyes, more like a reader than a writer – just what I needed. I’ve also figured out one point of view issue that was troubling me, so now I can fix that in the rest of the manuscript. —S.K. Lamont, author of the forthcoming novel 'Katie Reeves and the Dragon's Heart'
  • Joan helps clarify your prose without taking away your ‘voice’ and coaches you to be the best writer you can be. When I thought I couldn’t go on, Joan helped me see ways to further enrich my writing and helped me achieve my goal. —Dr. Pardis Mahdavi, author of 'From Trafficking to Terror' and 'Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution'
  • Working with Joan Dempsey is a writer’s dream. She shows you how to revise your work and is thorough in her editing. Joan gives you the necessary tools to write with confidence. She is easy to work with and I know I will be consulting with her again. —Cheryl Blaydon, author of 'The Heart of Stone' and 'Beyond the Ledge'
  • Joan's one of the very few people to whom I always turn to read my work in its early stages, because she approaches writing not only with a rare intelligence and insight, but also with a tremendous compassion and integrity. —Matthew Goodman, 'New York Times' bestselling author of 'Eighty Days' and 'The City Game.'
Click Here to Read What Other Writers Say About Working with Joan
Cheryl Abney

As a student and editing client of Joan Dempsey, I have always been appreciative and fully satisfied as the recipient of her knowledge, expertise, and dedication. Applying her teachings, my short stories were selected two years in a row (2016, 2017) for the Florida Writers Association Collection. I respectfully credit and thank Joan for sharing her ability to cut and polish manuscripts, create great dialogue, and produce quality work. I highly recommend Joan Dempsey as a mentor to help aspiring authors produce publishable writing pieces. I will always be in her debt.

Cheryl Abney
Elena Schwolsky-Fitch

Working with Joan Dempsey, both in an online class and receiving individual editing feedback, has been invaluable for me. I was able to take a writing project that had been sitting dormant for several years off the shelf and look at it with fresh eyes and begin a whole new revision. The process of revising enabled me to dig deeper into the narrative and complete new chapters. And the individual editing feedback I received from Joan was sharp, perceptive and encouraging. I am now almost finished with the revision of what is now a complete manuscript that has grown from a project I had almost tossed away in frustration. I can’t say enough about the value of this kind of support to a self-doubting but determined writer!

Elena Schwolsky-Fitch
Elizabeth De Wolfe, PhD

There can be too much of a good thing! Joan showed me how an overabundance of detail can bog down my narrative. Thanks to her feedback, my chapters have become leaner and meaner—I've learned how to resist research fact overload and now my narrative has more energy and excitement.

Elizabeth De Wolfe, PhD
Lynne Marino

Joan’s insights and advice about the process of writing proved to be invaluable. I walked away with concrete, helpful suggestions about my manuscript and a sense of new direction. Learning from Joan was easy, too—she’s fun and organized. I now feel better equipped to appraise my own writing in a more objective manner.

Lynne Marino
Frances Barrett-Reed

One of Joan’s outstanding skills is she cuts to the heart of the issues in one’s writing but does it in such a way that inspires and empowers you to get it right. For instance, I didn’t know until I hired Joan that my characters were flat and sounded exactly alike! Joan helped me breathe life into my people by pointing out how each individual can be recognized by their speech patterns, and how written dialogue is different, and needs to be sharper, than the normal spoken word. Strong dialogue, along with her other suggestions for character development, helped me make huge improvements to my novel. Joan’s input and advice has made me a far better writer. If you want an editor who is honest, superb at her job, and kind as well, I unhesitatingly recommend Joan. She’s the best!

Frances Barrett-Reed
Lillianne Milgrom

Joan’s thoughtful and insightful editing challenged me and encouraged me to push myself even further. One thing that has already changed now that Joan’s got my back is my willingness to try things out. I appreciate the genuine nature of our collaboration and the fact that Joan has created a safe environment for me as a writer. She has given me a priceless gift—validation.

Lillianne Milgrom

I hired Joan to read 100 pages, and my advice to anyone thinking about it is to go for it! Joan not only picked up some habits I didn’t know I had, she looked at the whole picture, noted the strengths and weaknesses she saw, and most importantly SHOWED ME THE WAY FORWARD! I’m excited to revise this book, which I had thought was a) finished, and b) not very good. Thank you, Joan.

- Ann Dibble

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: How many pages can I submit and what genre of writing do you accept?

I'm happy to work on anywhere from 5 pages up to your entire manuscript.

I am experienced in all genres of fiction and non-fiction for adults, young adults and middle grade.

Q: What format does the feedback come in?

I use the "track changes" feature in both Word and Pages, so you're welcome to send your manuscript in either program. NOTE that you will need to be familiar with track changes, or be willing and able to learn how to use them—I can provide links to online instructions but can't coach you through how to use them. If you don't think you can manage track changes, then I'm probably not the best fit for you.

I will send your feedback to you as an email attachment.

Q: Can you review the changes I've made after I've applied your feedback?

I'm happy to exchange emails to answer any questions you have about the feedback I shared. If, however, you want me to review your work a second time after you've revised it based on my feedback, you'll need to sign up again and pay the same per page rate. The reason for this is that it takes the same amount of time for me to review the work again as it did the first time around; in fact, it often takes longer because I'll need to compare the revision to the first draft you sent. When in doubt, just ask me what's possible and I'll let you know.

Q: When can I expect to receive my feedback?

I always do my best to accommodate your schedule, and usually that's possible. I don't take on more work than I can manage, but please note that I'm in high demand, so my schedule is nearly always jam-packed.

When you sign up, I'll ask you to let me know your preferred time-frame, and I'll let you know how that works with my schedule. So far (knock on wood), I've been able to satisfy most preferred deadlines.

Q: What are your credentials?

I love working with writers!

For more than ten years now I have worked with a wide variety of writers on all kinds of projects. I focus on developmental editing, which means I read your work with an eye toward what's working well and what can be improved, and provide you with guidance about what you need to learn or do to take your writing to the next level. I make both big picture and sentence-level suggestions.

Here's my official bio:

Winner of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers and named by "Poets & Writers" magazine as one of "5 more writers over 50" to watch, Joan Dempsey is the author of the novel, This Is How It Begins, which won a bronze medal for literary fiction in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) and was shortlisted for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award, the 2017 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award and the 2018 Sarton Women's Book Award. She holds advanced degrees in fiction and creative writing pedagogy from Antioch University Los Angeles.

You can read more details about me here.

Q: What is the cost?

For professional developmental editing, you can expect to pay between $8.50 and $20 per page. I work hard to keep my rates extremely reasonable for you while also making a reasonable living for me! 🙂 I charge ~$0.039 per word ($9.75 per page).

I typically receive payment-in-full up front; the reason for this is that my editing time is in high demand, so by paying in advance you're making a commitment to both me and yourself that we will work together. That way I don't find myself with gaps in my schedule that could have gone to another writer.

That said, I'm also happy to discuss payment plan options with you!

Q: What types of payment do you accept?

You can pay by either credit card or PayPal.

Q: Are you a copy editor or proofreader?

I am neither a copy editor nor a proofreader, so I'm not the right person for helping you polish your draft so it's perfectly free of typos, grammatical errors and the like.

I focus on what's called developmental, or content editing, which means I read your work with an eye toward what's working well and what can be improved, and provide you with guidance about what you need to learn or do to take your writing to the next level. I make both big picture and sentence-level suggestions.

If you need a copy editor or a proofreader, let me know and I can make some recommendations.

I'm ready for feedback—sign me up!

Have more questions?