manuscript book critique evaluation developmental editingS.J. Sutton


Script Consultant and Book Editor for Independent Authors and Writers of Screenplays and Teleplays

Contact S.J.

S.J. Sutton has worked in the book publishing and the film industries for thirty years—on the front lines and behind the scenes—finding projects to publish and/or produce, and developing and editing them, seeing them through to completion on the page or screen.

In the book publishing industry, she was a developmental editor, copy editor, and proofreader for Canfield Press, Harper & Row (now Harper Collins), Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Grune & Stratton, Abrams Publishers, and many others.

In the film industry she worked as a story analyst and development consultant on feature film and television projects for DreamWorks, Disney, Showtime, Lifetime, among others, and worked on the development of films such as L.A. Confidential (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published), Get On Up, Enigma, HBO's Vinyl, and countless others. She assisted writer/director Albert Brooks on Defending Your Life.

Fiction and Nonfiction

As a story consultant and editor for independent writers — of middle grade and Young Adult fiction and non-fiction, textbooks, study guides, adult fiction and non-fiction, screenplays, theatrical plays, and teleplays — she evaluates, develops, revises, edits, refines, polishes, and readies their work for submission to agents, managers, acquisitions editors; for option; and for publication or self-publication.

Developmental Content Editing

Content EditingShe can evaluate, assess, and critique, providing a broad-strokes response to a work's strengths and weaknesses, providing insight into how readers, agents, publishers, or producers would respond, and offering suggestions for how to revise or improve, including restructuring plot elements to maximize impact, fleshing out characters and pivotal relationships, and increasing the story's emotional, psychological, and physical (action) stakes.

As a developmental editor she address issues related to the art and craft of storytelling—strengthening plot structure, story arc, pacing, character development and motivation, theme, premise, tension, conflict, pacing, hook, and backstory. She works collaboratively with writers, offering creative problem-solving suggestions, and sparking imagination, innovation, ideas, and inspiration.

Line Editing, Copy Editing, Proofreading, Proof Editing

ProofreadingThis editing service focuses on paragraph-, word-, and line-specific issues. She can line edit to tighten language, enhance style, remedy inconsistencies, strengthen dialogue, smooth out transitions, and insure clarity at the paragraph and sentence levels. She can copyedit to address flaws on a technical level, correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, hyphenation, capitalization, and internal consistency. And she can proofread to check for quality of the proof against the original edited copy, or "proof edit," which also checks for typographical and grammatical errors.


Book Editor

Developmental editor, Harper's College Division (New York and San Francisco), developing, co-authoring, editing major college textbooks, such as Neuropsychology: Handbook of Behavioral Neurobiology, by Michael Gazzaniga, and textbooks in art history, English, history, and the humanities. Developing all ancillary and audio-visual materials, from planning through publication, for Harper & Row (now Harper Collins) Publishers, New York, and Canfield Press, San Francisco. Marketing Analyst, Research and Development, Harper College Division East.

Freelance developmental/substantive editing, copyediting, research, copywriting, and proofreading for such major publishing houses as Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Abrams, as well as for private clients (authors of fiction, non-fiction. Academic and scholarly texts); and legal word processing, proofreading, redlining, for firms such as Grune & Stratton, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, White & Case. Editing online study guides for high school and junior college students, for Six Red Marbles/Course Hero, including Much Ado About Nothing, Doctor Zhivago, and In Cold Blood.

Freelance Story Analyst/Story and Development Consultant, Motion Picture and Television Industry

Editor on feature film and television projects for companies such as DreamWorks, New Regency Productions, Village Roadshow, AMG, DeLuca Productions, Donner-Shuler-Donner Productions, Icon Films, Jagged Films, Showtime, Lifetime, Turner Pictures, among others, including private clients and international film brokers and producers (covering such film festivals as Cannes, Berlin, Toronto).


"I have finally completed my first book Cataqueria Island.

Submitting my story to an editing site was a huge leap, and finding the right editor, S.J. Sutton, moved me from trying to get the book finished to actually being able to finish it.

Once I received my first edit it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my imagination I could finally see the way to the end step by step.

The guidance and instruction given by Susan Schader was extremely detailed and incredibly useful in getting me to the final page!

Susan's ability to create the same thought and moment in Cataqueria Island with words I couldn't find was a set-me-free moment, for all the frustration and knots in the sentences had vanished as if a magic wand had been waved all over the script, bringing to life the story that was locked in my mind with hidden brick walls and blank spaces.

I cannot thank Susan enough for getting me to the end of a big adventure, one I hope will continue for many more books to come!" - Anna Elizabeth Taylor

"Working with S.J. Sutton has been a wonderfully, positive experience. As a first-time author, she provides expert copy editing, creative inspiration and much-needed encouragement. SJ is super responsive and works with lightning speed. I highly recommend her." - Pete Crowley

"The hunt for the right editor can be a daunting task, especially for a first time writer. With all the effort you put into your work, you really want the right person that’ll take it to the next level. After discussing my project with several editors, SJ’s ambition, friendly-nature and experience set her apart. In the editing process, she’s collaborative, engaged, supportive and honest. She does everything in her power to improve the manuscript and give it every chance to succeed. From the business side, she’s competitive in her proposal and in the end, on time and on budget. All told, I feel very lucky to have SJ in my corner." - Zack Klamn

"Jagged Films has worked with SJ as a story consultant to find and develop projects for film and television for many years. She brings an experienced, critical, and intuitive eye to evaluating screenplays and books (fiction and non-fiction, for adaptation), assessing the strengths and weaknesses of key story elements such as premise, plot, structure, characterizations, dialogue, and marketability. Development is her forte, and she can be relied on to offer intelligent, insightful, and creative suggestions and solutions that insure a project reaches its fullest potential. We rely on her good taste, professionalism, and utmost discretion in very way." Victoria Pearman, President, Jagged Films, and Mick Jagger’s producing partner

"If you need a good editor--and you do, even if you don't think you do--the first person you should contact is SJ. Her sense of story is unparalleled and she has the skills you need at every stage of your projects, from developing a story that is both coherent and commercial, to delivering a manuscript that's as clean of grammar glitches as humanly possible. if you hand her a piece of coal, she'll give you back a diamond." Kat Parrish, author of Bride of the Midnight King 

"SJ Sutton is without a doubt one of the finest and most thorough editors I have ever had the fortune to meet. Coming from an extensive background of manuscript development and editing and critiquing screenplays, her suggestions are first class.  I would not hesitate to recommend her to authors who are in need of help in analyzing and fine tuning their manuscripts." Anne Loader McGee, children's author, Cedar Creek Mystery Series 

"Getting my screenplay to SJ was a real game changer for me. She is very detailed and right on with with STORY, CHARACTERS and STRUCTURE. Working with only one set of her story notes, I was able to make my screenplay Ashford Hollows a good 50% better. I will definitely rely on her services again. Thank you, SJ!" Frank A. Rossi, Writer, Actor, Acting Coach 

"After SJ edited my last novel, I submitted it to my publisher. The editor on this third book in the series had only one comment: that the manuscript was clean, the story tight, enjoyable, and a real page-turner. The book went straight into production and four months later, Koolura and the Mayans was published." Michael Thal, author of the Koolura series, Goodbye, TchaikovskyThe Abduction of Joshua Bloom