Holly R. Tavel Editorial


Holly R. Tavel

Professional Editorial Services


What’s your story?

Maybe you’ve written a novel about identical twins and their romantic foibles, or time-traveling vampires, or an epic account of a family of circus performers. Maybe you’ve written a book of satirical short stories that skewer the hypocrisies and illuminate the hidden wonders and beauties of our modern age. Maybe you’ve written a memoir about family, about tragedy and redemption, about overcoming obstacles most people can barely imagine, about love and death, or about your stint in the French Foreign Legion. Maybe you're an expert in lucid dreaming or starting a business on a budget or how to get your cat or dog paid work starring in TV commercials. Maybe you’ve written a dissertation you’d like to turn into a full-length book with appeal beyond academia.

Whatever your story is, it can only come from one person—you. And that's why, first and foremost, my goal is to help you tell your story in the most effective, reader-friendly and original way possible.

What do you want?

What’s the goal of your book? Maybe it’s to entertain, to sweep readers into a magical world, to make them laugh, to keep them guessing about who the killer is until the very end.

Maybe it's to startle, to shake up, to offer an original commentary on the modern world.

Maybe it’s to inform, to teach, to offer insight from your own life, your own experiences.

All of these goals are valuable and meaningful, but none of them can be accomplished unless you realize your overarching mission: to keep readers immersed in your world. To keep them engaged. You want your book to be a book they can’t put down––and a book they can't wait to get back to. There are many, many elements that go into creating an unforgettable story.  A compelling plot…a unique point of view or narrative voice…a vivid and musical prose style…a feeling of urgency...a sense of conflict…and characters who, just like real people, are flawed and hopeful. Mastering these elements takes a lot of time. It can be overwhelming. Like an intricate Rube Goldberg machine, if one component breaks down it can affect the whole contraption. If you work with me, we’ll address them all: plot, story (note: they're not the same thing!), structure, pacing, character, voice, language.

Further, we can develop an action plan for selling or marketing your book.

Why Hire an Editor?

NO writer can see all the flaws in their own work. We all need to gain distance, and we all need second (and maybe third and fourth) opinions. Many novice writers’ impulse is to seek the feedback of their friends and family. There’s nothing wrong with getting feedback wherever you can, but casual readers are not a substitute for a professional editor. For one thing, casual readers may know something's off, but be at a loss to explain exactly what it is or--most importantly--what you can do to fix it. "Well, this character didn't feel believable to me," they might say. Or "I don't like the narrator. I found it hard to sympathize with him/her." That's good to know...but where do you go from there? Throw it all out and start over? Rewrite from a different character's point of view? You need specifics. New ways of looking at your work. And concrete, positive ideas for moving your work to the next level.  Constructive criticism is a skill and an art. Anyone who's been in a creative writing workshop has experienced this--the well-meaning critique that nevertheless leaves you feeling demoralized and dejected.

What you need is a high level of analysis from someone who understands each component of a story and how each affects the other. My critiques and comments are rigorous and honest. But I always come from a place of empathy and kindness. I know how hard it is to write, and how much self-doubt arises when you try to put yourself out there. This is true whether you've written a food memoir or the next (hopefully) best-selling Young Adult novel.

When I work with you, I’m drawing from an array of skills developed over the last twenty years—as a writer myself, a professor of writing, a long-time editor, and a voracious reader, I have a deep knowledge and understanding of what makes a novel—or a short story, memoir, or nonfiction book—work. I approach each project on its own terms, utilizing finely honed analytic skills as well as a heavy helping of intuition.

My job is not to be a yes-man (or in this case, woman). I'm not going to lavish false praise on your work--but I WILL tell you what IS working. And I'll be frank and ruthlessly honest about what's not. What I won't do is rewrite your story for you. And I won't make any promises about agents, editors, publishing, or sales. To be perfectly honest, despite what loads of websites will tell you, there is NO guarantee of anything when it come to publishing. But I can assure you that your work will be given careful attention and will be approached on its own terms. And that if you keep at it, the rewards--external or internal--will come.

GET A Free Sample Edit


Contact me with a description of your project and what you're looking for. I'm happy to complete a sample edit of the first few pages of your manuscript or document so you can get a sense of my style and determine whether I'd be a good fit. Turnaround time is generally 2–3 days, depending on scheduling.



Holly provides crucial encouragement, so necessary for the writer’s struggling confidence, with a delicacy and appreciation for your goals that helps you see them with new eyes. Her experience and sophistication as a reader make her an excellent source of input. Her suggestions are precise and intelligent, helping you clear away your mistakes and resolve other issues like tone, point of view, chronology, etc., so your manuscript can shine.
— Kristy Eldredge, writer and Humorist
Holly read the manuscript of my memoir and she was a delight to work with: Professional in meeting deadlines, insightful in her observations, and thoughtful about suggested changes. I would recommend her work without reservations.
— Edie Jarolim, author of "Am I Boring my Dog and 99 Other Things Your Dog Wishes You Knew," and "Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All" (forthcoming).
Holly not only manages to distill what I’m trying to say in the early stages, but also points me, with uncanny foresight, in the right direction every time. She is encouraging yet candid. It’s rare to meet someone who so easily grasps the big picture while combing out the finest details and catching all the clichés...I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without her guidance.
— --Pik-Shuen Fung, writer, artist, founding editor of Elastic Magazine: http://www.elastic-mag.com/
Holly has a keen eye for both the micro and macro, and this is critical for any good editor to have. I’ve referred any number of writers to her of all stripes, traditional, experimental, fiction, non-fiction, and will continue to do so. She is professional and trustworthy and a talented writer herself, so she knows what it’s like in this business from all angles.
— Robert Lopez, author of four books, including "Good People," "Part of the World" and "Kamby Bolongo Mean River".
Holly brought a level of precision to my writing and asked me to consider some very powerful writing principles. I have no doubt that her critique and attention to detail made my writing much better. Her experience stood out to me above hundreds of other copy editors who I could have collaborated with.
— Nicholas Sailer, filmmaker and author of "A Story Each Day."
Holly is a pleasure to work with and she’s a true professional. She has the ability to find the perfect word and has a gift for form and structure. She is very knowledgeable about various historic periods and has a special sensitivity for the author’s voice. I look forward to working with her on my next manuscript!
— Gabrielle Tito, author of "The Queen's Dance" and "The Girl from Bretagne".
Holly grasped my needs and not only corrected some mistakes of my book that were overlooked, but also gave me excellent suggestions that provided a better sense to what I intended to say. When feedback was needed, new versions of her suggestions or any modifications were made or sent very quickly. It was great a experience to work with someone so open-minded and responsive.
— Juan Pablo Bustamante, author of "Prince Charming Opens Doors" and "Livin' La Vida Boba".


About Me


I'm the author of a short story collection, The Weather in Fritz Bemelmans Park (Equus Press, 2015). My fiction has been anthologized in The Return of Kral Majales (Litteraria Pragensia Press, 2010) and the Triples Series (Ravenna Press, 2013); and has appeared in many literary journals, including McSweeney's, Torpedo, The Brooklyn Rail, elimae, Diagram Journal (which awarded me its 2007 Innovative Fiction award), Vlak, and many others.

In 2009 I received a Fulbright Scholarship in creative writing (2010-2011) to research a novel set in Central Europe. I have taught writing at the college level since 2006, with fiction and nonfiction workshops at Brown University, Grub Street Boston, Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY), Pratt Institute, and, in Prague, the University of New York–Prague and Anglo-American University. In Fall 2016, I'll be teaching courses at Rollins College and Valencia College in Florida.

I've been a freelance copy editor and proofreader for over a decade, working with The American Association of Advertising Agencies, Verso, Scribner, Bloomsbury, Scholastic, Cengage/Pearson, S4 Carlisle, and other publishers/organizations. I have worked with many individual clients on projects ranging from nonfiction books in all subjects, to novels, story collections, theses, dissertations, and numerous academic essays.

In my creative life, in addition to writing, I've been a visual artist my entire life and have had work exhibited at galleries in New York City, Boston, Prague, and Orlando.