About me

Hi, I’m Ellie, a writer and an avid reader with a passion for all things related to creative writing. I have a Masters in English from the University of Cambridge and another Masters in Creative Writing (Distinction) from the University of Manchester. I am also a qualified Teacher of English as a Foreign Language. I’ve had my work published in Mslexia magazine, and I also run a book blog where I chat about my current reads. I am working on a novel. I’ve got extensive experience of workshopping and giving feedback, and I love helping new writers gain confidence.

The service I offer is one that I would have liked to have found when I was just starting out as a writer: reasonably priced, impartial feedback with a quick turnaround time and a simple submission process. It’s a chance to show your work, perhaps for the first time, to someone with experience of critiquing, and to receive honest, friendly, practical advice on how to move forward with your writing. I know from experience how valuable it can be to have a fresh pair of eyes on your writing, and I am looking forward to seeing your work!

Why Elspells?

Quick

I know just how nerve-wracking it can be to wait for feedback on your work, which is why my service provides a speedy turnaround. The sooner you get your feedback, the sooner you can crack on with your writing! Maximum turnaround is 1 week, unless you are sending 70k+ words, in which case I will give you an estimated time frame when you submit.

Affordable

My service is very reasonably priced, starting at just £15 for feedback on up to 5,000 words of prose. The longer your piece of writing, the more feedback you will receive. Please see below for a full price list.

Straightforward

There are no complications or hidden processes: you send me your work, and I provide a separate feedback document as quickly as possible. You can pay online and send your manuscript now – there’s no need to contact me beforehand if you don’t want to.

My Feedback


I aim to provide honest, useful feedback for my clients. The content will vary according to the individual piece of work, but you can expect me to comment on aspects such as tone, language choice, character development, dialogue, pacing, and so on, always accompanied by practical advice on how to improve the piece. I pride myself on being a sensitive reader who strives to understand the aim of others’ work, and I will always respect your intentions. Once you have paid and submitted your work, I will read your piece carefully and send you a separate document with feedback and advice (see below for an example).

My feedback will be of particular use to new or aspiring writers who are looking to take the first step and show their work in order to develop their craft. I firmly believe that anyone who writes is already a writer, but I have learnt from experience that getting impartial advice is one of the most helpful things you can do for your writing. My aim is to give those starting out on their writing journey the tools and the confidence to progress to the next level. Please see below for some testimonials from writers I have helped.

How it Works

1


(Contact)

Email me if you’d like to discuss anything or ask any questions: ellie@elspells.com.

2


Pay

When you’re ready, count the number of words of your manuscript and make a payment (see the PayPal buttons at the side/bottom of this page, and prices in the next section).

3


Email

Then email me your manuscript. I can only take Microsoft Word (.doc) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) files.

4


Receive

I will email you the feedback within one week.


A few points to bear in mind (i.e. Terms & Conditions…)

  • I only work with creative prose fiction. I can’t provide feedback on poetry, screenplays, academic essays, or specialist non-fiction – sorry.
  • I can only provide feedback once payment has been received (although I’m happy to chat about the service beforehand).
  • My feedback will be separate to your manuscript – so I won’t send your text back with annotations.
  • I can only accept electronic submissions, not hard (paper) copies.
  • If your manuscript is larger than 70,000 words then please email me first, as it may take longer than a week for me to provide feedback for it.
  • All feedback is for personal use only, and must not be used for publicity purposes in the case of your work being published.

Prices

Each 5,000 words costs £15. The longer the manuscripts, the more feedback provided. To pay me via PayPal, you need to specify how many ‘Units’ of 5,000 words/£15 you are purchasing.

Words in ManuscriptUnitsPrice
Up to 5,0001£15
5,001 to 10,0002£30
10,001 to 15,0003£45
15,001 to 20,0004£60
20,001 to 25,0005£75
25,001 to 30,0006£90

Samples

Sample Writing Piece

(Note: this is a small extract from a much longer piece which was submitted for feedback. Many thanks to the author for allowing me to reproduce it here, along with my feedback.)

“Bad things happened when I was around. I left the taps running until it made a damp patch on the ceiling below. I shut the dogs in the garden, clawing and howling at the door. Three Yorkies with tangled belly hair and gooey eyes. I forgot you weren’t supposed to close the doors. Nain dragged me down the stairs, pointing at the scratches and smears of saliva on the glass. I lost the keys to the back door. I don’t remember what I did with them. I just remember Nain shouting, pointing her finger at me.

‘This girl is a menace!’

Small things were difficult. Keys, plugs, doors. I couldn’t remember what was meant to be closed or open, on or off.

Nain was a storm, quietly brewing. She and Taid lived a two-hour drive from us, the motorway dissolving into the slow, winding, coastal road along the peninsula. The car ambled, assaulted by winds. The road led to a metal field gate that Dad had to get out to open. The car stuttered and bumped along a mud track and the sky hid behind inward-reaching branches that tunneled the track.

The track reached the barn, grinding on the gravelly drive in front of the portico that sheltered shallow steps. The front door was made of glass. The barn was angled on the sea front, spinning off the edge of the world, and behind it loomed the rolling hills and scrubland where sheep grazed and the wind whistled. Seagulls circled and swooped. The house slept, shutters closed. The rooms crept with shadows and their corners collected dirt and dog faeces, now that the cleaner had been battled away. Nain lived like a destitute woman, crashing amongst the filth. An angry clown. It was like a fairytale, to find her madness perched, there, on the brink of the wild sea. Alone in the house, she draped silk scarves over soft jumpers and wore beads on her neck and clunky bangles that bumped at her wrists. Delusioned, bejewelled, she patrolled the rooms with the Yorkies at her heel, her face smeared orange and lipstick exceeding the outer line of her lips. Nain was half-blind but refused glasses. She squinted into the mirror instead, leaning towards it like she might vanish into another world.”

Sample Feedback

(Note: the author specifically asked me to focus on the five elements listed below. I am always happy to direct my feedback to specific areas if you so wish – just add a note in your email submission.)

General Comments

PLOT: The story has a clear progression, and is punctuated by dramatic events which add tension to the narrative.

CHARACTER: Gwen is an interesting protagonist. Mari is also very intriguing but her character could be developed further; she provides a counterpoint to Gwen and the fact that their journeys are so different but ultimately both end in a kind of destruction of the self is one of the most fascinating facets of the novel. As a reader, I found the sheer amount of family members a bit overwhelming – I wonder if the cast could be pared down so that the characters have more room to breathe?

STRUCTURE: The overall structure is solid, and builds towards the dramatic conclusion.

PACING: Sometimes the pacing detracts from the key narrative points – certain episodes are given too much space, which distracts from the more significant scenes. The second half, on account of being drafted more quickly, is a bit rushed and could definitely be slowed down and expanded.

VOICE: The first person works well. At times Gwen makes comments on other characters’ state of mind that seem overly insightful/empathetic for her age and her isolated position in the family – but this may be partly due to the difficulties presented in balancing a narrative that recounts childhood experiences from the narrator’s current perspective.

Chapter by Chapter

Prologue: I wonder if this is necessary? It is dramatic, but it seems a bit like ‘tipping your hand’ – I feel like a slower build-up and the gradual development of the imagery of dolls throughout the novel might be more effective? Perhaps the details of Gwen and Mari’s close relationship in childhood could be used in Chapter 1 instead?

Chapter 1: This is a strong opening and Gwen is immediately intriguing as a narrator (although her name isn’t mentioned till p.9 – maybe drop it in earlier?). It might be better to build up Gwen and Mari’s relationship in the first chapter before it starts to change, so that we are more emotionally invested when they start to drift apart?

p.11 “they thought there was something terribly wrong with me” – the question that Gwen gets asked often in the novel is “What’s wrong with you?”, which is a powerful and effective refrain that could be emphasised even further.

p.16 Effective description of the ‘spider mothers’ – but is this how Gwen sees them? Or does she on any level crave that kind of attention from her own mother?

Chapter 2: The mother is developed well here as a character.

p.27 “This time of day was the hardest for her.” This feels maybe too empathetic for Gwen given her age and her attitude towards her mother.

The descriptions of the village and landscape are full of good detail – is there a way of imbuing them with more of a sense of something sinister? One of the strengths of the novel is the way it takes quite typical events and interrogates them through intense personal experience – this could be pushed even further in the descriptions of the setting, in order to make the novel as a whole more unsettling.

Chapter 3: The inclusion of Nana as well as Nain is slightly confusing, and the plethora of family members slows the story down a bit here. As a reader, I was keen for more of Mari, Nain, and Cai and the cousins – this section was a bit distracting.

p.42 Mari on the beach – this feels like getting back to the story.

The Jordans are a subtle but sinister force – perhaps even more could be made of them

When Gwen’s Dad defends her, it feels a bit out of character – it might have more impact if he wasn’t on her side. This would also add to her sense of isolation.

Minor point – Gwen rolls her eyes a lot!

p.53 The description of Mari being transformed into a doll is very effective. Again, it could be made even more sinister.

p.55 Gwen is still 10 here – at times the passage of time is quite hard to follow and feels a little episodic. Having a clearer narrative thread based on the relationship between Gwen and Mari would make this easier.

p.58 This section with Cai is very important and unsettling, but it needs connecting up with what came before. More of Cai before this would help – could he be there during the deerstalking?

Chapter 6: Mam and Dad’s relationship is very interesting – more on this in the novel?

p.72 The way in which Mari’s ‘disappearance’ exposes Gwen is fascinating, and seems to me to be one of the key elements of the first half of the novel – could it be emphasised more?

Chapter 7: p.78 Marilyn as ‘a bit of a slut’ – could this be linked to the idea of dolls?

p.81 – Nain calling Gwen a slut for leaving her towel on the floor – this is a real moment of tension, and deeply unsettling. Moments like this in the novel are what elevate the story, when everyday familial interactions become something unexpectedly, quietly violent.

Chapter 8: The scene with Cai is horribly powerful, but we need more build up in the early chapters, more scenes with the cousins?

p.86 “I took this idea into myself” – this is very interesting – the way that Gwen absorbs and ejects ideas and theories in an almost physical way throughout the novel seems to me connected with the physicality of the female experience that she is living.

Chapter 9: powerful opening imagery

Pp91-95 very strong description – the visceral nature of Gwen’s experience is really well expressed here

Chapters 10 and 11: p.104 how does Gwen feel at the mention of Cai?

Mari has sort of disappeared from the narrative at this point

Chapter 12: Isabella is a very interesting character – perhaps go deeper into their friendship? How does their relationship compare with Gwen and Mari’s? Isabella seems to be fulfilling a role that Gwen wishes Mari could fulfil

Chapter 13: p.126 “I had no sense of things like that” – this idea that Gwen can’t tell if men are attractive or not is intriguing. Make more of details like this which make Gwen an original character.

Mr O’Brien scene – vivid. The sense of disconnection is very well done. Is this her first sexual experience since Cai abused her?

Chapter 14: More detail on why she is so obsessed with Mr O’Brien? Go deeper into Gwen’s mindset here?

Mari’s abortion feels really sudden – maybe add a little foreshadowing?

Chapter 15: The reconciliation between Gwen and Mari was a rare and necessary moment of connection in the novel – perhaps make even more of this?

Chapter 16: Gwen’s silence is powerful – more on this?

The revelations in this chapter felt quite sudden and unexpected – Taid and Aunt Katryn need to be more significant characters for this to pack a real emotional punch, and the reveal about Mari’s abortion is a little confusing.

Pp166-167 This is a strong ending, beautifully written

Final Comment

As a first draft, this has a lot of strengths. As a narrator/protagonist, Gwen feels fresh and original, and the experiences she describes are both highly personal and yet also of universal relevance. The second half does feel more rushed, but the elements are in place for a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. Focusing on fewer characters, using the Gwen/Mari relationship as a stronger narrative thread, and using your considerable descriptive powers to imbue even more of a sinister, unsettling atmosphere would all help to elevate the next draft.

Testimonials


I can’t thank Ellie enough for the help she gave me with my manuscript. She went through the draft incredibly meticulously, pointing out problems and weaknesses, explaining what was working and what wasn’t quite so good, even down to the level of individual word choices and the way I used punctuation. She also engaged with the work in terms of its overall structure, offering lots of really insightful and constructive suggestions as to how I could  make my story more dramatic and original.

Overall, Ellie’s critique was so positive and informative; it helped me see my draft in a fresh light, and once I’d thought about the points she raised I felt a real determination to take my work to the next level and finally finish the project I’d been working on for so long.

It was daunting to submit my writing to a professional for the first time, but I learned a huge amount from the experience. Thanks so much, Ellie, your feedback was exactly what I needed.

KAT ARMSTRONG


“Without reservation I highly recommend using Ellie to critique your literary work. She is meticulous and closely attentive to detail while simultaneously taking a panoramic view of character, plot and structure. She perfectly understands the nuts and bolts of narrative while having the wisdom and emotional intelligence to pull out and develop deeper themes. She communicates her feedback in a clear and concise way, without long-winded digressions that writers could really do without! She really is an asset to any writer. 

CERYS HOWELL

“Ellie’s feedback was thorough, speedy and insightful. She helped me to understand how to move forward with a project I was unsure about. I would encourage you to give her a try.”

LAURA PEARSON

“I would highly recommend Ellie’s critiquing service to anyone who has ever put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  After myriad revisions of my first few chapters, I’d hit a wall I just couldn’t get past, no matter how hard I tried. I’d never used a critiquing service before, and was nervous about sending anything to a professional, for fear of being told I was a crap writer (albeit, politely).


I needn’t have worried. Ellie’s comments were thorough, professional and extremely helpful. She advised that my grammar concerns weren’t as bad as I thought, and offered helpful advice as to how I could move past the wall blocking my way (namely – massive info dumps). She also set my mind to rest about the quality of my writing; engaging and funny (hurrah!), which was exactly what I’d been aiming for. Phew!


If you’re thinking about getting a critique, do it! Ellie is brilliant; quick, efficient and absolutely lovely. I won’t hesitate to use her again.

RACHEL HUNTSBORNE

“It’s been brilliant to finally find someone to give me knowledgeable and impartial feedback on my writing – something I’ve been looking for for ages. The feedback I received was really insightful; she got what I was trying to do, but also highlighted some problems that I was only vaguely aware of. She’s also given me the confidence to know I’m more or less on the right track, and shown me clearly what I need to do to make my writing better. 


I would highly recommend Ellie to anyone looking for insight into their work. I will definitely be using her again.”

BEN HOLLOWAY


“I was slightly nervous about sending my work out for comment, but I’d got to the stage that where I was too close to it, and unable to progress. Ellie’s feedback was absolutely invaluable. She picked up on issues that I had not even considered, and gave helpful and positive guidance on each chapter, as well as the thorny issue of prologue/no prologue. Her suggestions on structure were very useful and encouraging.

Her comments have enabled me to move forward with the manuscript, and I would recommend her service to any writer. Thank you Ellie, top of my acknowledgement pages (one day!)”

JO TIDDY


I have taken time before offering this testimonial, but that means I can affirm how positive has been the impact of Ellie’s feedback on my writing. She gave me the confidence to carry on – being clear on what was working – whilst suggesting possible changes. At first, I was concerned that the changes might take something fundamental away from the writing but, having worked on the manuscript over the last three months, I now see how dealing with the questions she raised have strengthened the writing. Although it has meant a lot of work – and wrestling with doubts – I believe that the response she has elicited has improved the book beyond any point I could have taken it by myself.

TIM ALMOND


“I couldn’t be happier with Ellie’s feedback – she is knowledgeable, professional and encouraging, all things I really appreciated when a little stuck and needed an impartial reader for my MS.  She was able to pin point places where things could be improved and she did so in a really clear, positive way. 

After working on those revisions, I can see that she was spot on. My MS will be all the better for her suggestions and I absolutely would not hesitate to recommend Ellie’s service to anyone.”

KAT HILL


“I’m going to disappear for a few months to put my head down and crank out some good writing, and hope soon I’ll be back to use your service again with a more realised piece of work because your service has given me real steam to keep going.

I also gotta commend the effort and formatting you put into your feedback document. It’s clean and legible, and nicely stylised. Your response is also very reactionary, and I loved the feedback and notes of every single chapter. It shows that you really care to read your submissions through a kind, helpful and constructive lens; it can be daunting for writers to share their baby like that.”

LUCAS MODZELEWSKI