How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Manuscript Evaluation

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is moving forward with a manuscript that isn’t ready for submission or publication. Whether you ID-10098753choose to query agents and publishers or you decide to self-publish your work, remember the old saying:

 “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? One way is to have a professional manuscript evaluation.

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? #amwriting Click To Tweet

You’ve shared your work with family and friends—and they’ve all raved about your storytelling talent. You’ve shared it with your critique group and beta readers, and they’ve offered some useful, constructive criticism. You’ve tweaked this, deleted that, and rewritten entire scenes and characters.

Now is the time for an honest and objective critique of your plot, dialogue, characters and pace, or opinions about structure, coherency, consistency, and organization.

A manuscript evaluation is a big-picture look that tells you what works and what doesn’t. It is not editing: a manuscript critique is an assessment and diagnostic tool that pinpoints specific strengths as well as weaknesses you can fix to improve your manuscript.

As a professional freelance editor, I interact with many writers who struggle when they finish writing and move into the editing phase. Some just throw in the towel and self-publish their books with little or no editing; some work for weeks to self-edit and revise; some search for a freelance editor who will help them “fix” their manuscript.

Don’t struggle alone, hope someone else will fix your problems, or give up. And don’t jump into the publishing pool unprepared. Instead, have your entire manuscript reviewed; if you can’t afford that, at least have your first chapter evaluated.

Whether your readers are literary agents or members of your target audience, you have to catch and keep their attention. As New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap writes:

Something must happen in the first two hundred words. That’s the length of my interest fuse. Billowing clouds, pouring rain and beautiful flowers are not action. Characters interacting with each other or with their environment is action.”

Be sure you choose an evaluator with experience, someone who understands what literary agents and publishers are looking for, and someone with whom you can communicate so you’ll get the most from your critique.

Don’t be shy about discussing your needs and expectations for the evaluations, as well as your preferences for how you receive feedback. As with any editing service, you should feel very comfortable that the editor you hire is someone who can help you meet your goals. As I wrote here and here, be sure you clearly articulate your expectations and make sure your new editing partner is a good communicator.

I just finished evaluating a 75,000 word fiction manuscript; I sent the author a seven-page written critique filled with specific details and examples of the strengths and weaknesses I found in the manuscript. I’m also in the midst of a memoir critique that is part written evaluation and part Skype conference. As you can see, there are different ways for an author to communicate with his or her editor, and you’ll want to work with someone who can give you the evaluation YOU need to improve your work.

Don’t be the author who papers your room with rejection slips or bad reviews because your manuscript needs work! Contact me today for a professional manuscript evaluation and let me help you bring your work to the next level.

Happy Writing!


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Related articles:

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Developmental and Substantive Editing

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Copyediting

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Proofreading

A Thank-You Letter to My Dad on Father’s Day

letter to my dad on father's day
John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)

Dear Dad,

Because you’re a self-declared technophobe, you won’t read this today, but I’ll send you a printed copy via snail mail. I may be using all my techie-toys (laptop, printer, and my WordPress blog) to write this, but the message is very old-school: without you, I would never be following my dream today.

You see, I’m finally pursuing a passion I’ve had for my whole life. Remember when I’d spend hours in my room reading books and writing to pen pals? You and Mom humored me for the most part, but every so often, my bedroom door would fly open and you’d bellow, “It’s time to go outside for some fresh air!”

A Thank-You Letter to My Dad #dads #fathers #parents #dreams Click To Tweet

I hated when you did that, Dad, because invariably I was lost in a world you couldn’t have known. A word where magical things happened to imaginary people—and it didn’t matter to me whether those magical things happened in the books I read or the letters I received. I couldn’t get enough of those worlds beyond my door, and I really have to credit you for that as well.

For as far back as I can remember, your nose was always in a book or magazine. I can close my eyes and see you sitting in your chair in the living room, glasses perched on your nose and a book balanced on your lap; you always had your legs crossed (I wonder if that’s a genetic trait, because I can’t seem to sit without doing the same). I can’t remember the titles of any of the books, but I clearly remember the Look and Life magazines; you and Mom read those cover-to-cover, and I loved looking at the photos, too, until I was old enough to read the words.

Yes, you instilled in me a love for reading, but more than that, you instilled a love for writing. I seldom shared my little stories with you because I feared your disapproval, but I wrote them nonetheless, and even though you didn’t read them, you certainly influenced them. The letters I wrote to pen pals all over the world were a form of creative writing, too, as were the journals I meticulously kept, and later, as I worked on essays and research projects in school, I learned many valuable lessons about writing styles and rules and authors and grammar and . . . the list goes on and on.

Having a father who is a perfectionist and a schoolteacher is difficult for a child, but I suspect having that father is the reason I was constantly proofreading cereal boxes, street signs, and letters from those pen pals on the other side of the world, and why I was always drawn to helping others with their writing. When it came time for college, practicality won out and I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I could never make a living as a writer, so I went a different direction and never looked back.

Until a few years ago when my midlife-crisis-self decided it was time to follow my heart for a change. (Thank goodness that crazy lady finally spoke up!) My love of writing and grammar and teaching and helping others all came together, and today I have a wonderful career as a freelance editor and writer. Pat yourself on the back, Dad, because your example is what led me down that path:

  • the example you set as a teacher who expected the best from every student you taught showed me that everyone has the ability to find just a little bit more inside himself or herself;
  • the example you set as a parent who expected nothing less than perfection made me into a perfectionist, which is a noble quality for a proofreader (although less so for a writer, I’m afraid—anxiety tends to kick in when perfectionism rears its ugly head);
  • the example you set as a reader taught me that words are a precious commodity to be respected and revered, whether one is reading The Little Engine That Could or The Godfather or an algebra text (that last one took a few extra years to appreciate, by the way);
  • the example you set as a parent helped me pass my own love of reading and writing to my children and grandchildren; I can’t express the joy I felt when my eighteen-month-old granddaughter pulled me into her room to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom—a book I gave her!

So on this Father’s Day, Dad, I just want to say thank you for sharing your love of words with that little girl who loved to crawl up into your lap and listen to you read aloud. You gave me a gift that has continued to shower me with happiness for all these years, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Now please, Dad, won’t you consider putting aside your fear of technology and just consider an e-reader? You’d make gift-giving so much easier!

Love, Candace

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Dream a Dream: Life of a Freelance Editor

life of a freelance editorIn a previous post, I shared some of the reasons that went into my decision to become a full-time freelance editor a little over a year ago. I had a dream that I could make a living by editing for authors I truly cared about, and I’ve turned that dream into a reality. When I posted that blog, I received numerous comments, including this one that inspired the post you’re now reading:

“Have you ever turned down an editing assignment? What parameters do you set for yourself in considering assignments? For a brief time when I considered going full time freelance, the fear of having to take any and all assignments always brought me up short. Currently I have a day job that I’m happy with, but I’ve always wondered how freelancers manage their workload. Personally, I know that if I were totally reliant on freelance work, I would find it impossible to say “no” to anything.”

Do freelance editors turn down assignments? Yes, and here's why. #writetip Click To Tweet

So here goes:

“Have you ever turned down an editing assignment?”

Yes, I have. I always offer a sample edit to authors who are looking for line editing or proofreading; occasionally, a writer who swears his manuscript needs nothing more than a spell check sends a sample that is clearly in need of more substantial editing.

If a manuscript is so full of major flaws that it reads more like a first draft, I won’t take the job. Correcting grammar or misspelled words won’t help a manuscript that is in need of major revision, and I would rather lose the work than take someone’s money when I know I am not really helping him or her. Continue reading “Dream a Dream: Life of a Freelance Editor”

Writers: You Never Know How Strong You Are Until Being Strong Is the Only Choice You Have

how strong you areLife is full of challenges. Sometimes they are minor, like trying to explain to your children (for the thirteenth time) why they can’t have a puppy because you don’t want the responsibility (“But Mom, we promise we’ll walk it and feed it and play with it—you won’t have to do a thing!”).

Sometimes the challenges are much more, well, challenging.

Like mourning the passing of a loved one, or receiving another rejection letter for the piece you poured your heart and soul into, or suffering a stroke at age 12. Those are the types of challenges that can send us over the edge if we don’t know how to consciously access our resilience.

If we access our personal power, we can overcome just about anything. #adversity #challenge #writers Click To Tweet

Maybe it has something to do with the alignment of the moon and the stars—who really knows?—but I feel like the past week has been a particularly challenging one for many of the bloggers I follow. Phillip McCollum wrote about a writer’s paralysis in “I’m Not Good Enough” (includes a great Ira Glass quotation, too); Hermania Chow discussed self-esteem in “5 More Things Writers Need to Stop Doing”; J. Keller Ford shared her perplexing relationship with her adult daughter in “A Demon of the Past Is Destroying the Present and I’m the Scapegoat . . . Again.”

We often beat ourselves up over what we didn’t do, what we “should” have done instead. I’m always reminded of my late mother when I hear the word “should.” She would remind me that, in her opinion, it is one of the most useless and debilitating words in the English language. Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself if the “shoulds” in your life are keeping you from being your best self.

“I should let the kids have that puppy.”

“I should be writing.”

“I should be able to get through the day without being sad about Dad’s passing—it’s been a year, after all.”

“I should have finished by now . . . should be more established as a freelance writer . . . should be able to write a blog post every day . . .” Yes, we can “should” ourselves into feeling like failures, but by consciously accessing our resilience, we can stop listening to those negative voices and turn our challenges into character-building markers.

I was prompted to write this post when I received an email yesterday from Patricia O’Gorman, the author of The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power. After her own especially challenging week, Dr. O’Gorman was more than thrilled to receive a great review for her book, which reminded her that no matter what happens to us, if we access our personal power, we can overcome just about anything. There is something in this book for every man, woman, and child who ever suffered from self-doubt.

The book’s reviewer (from wrote:

There is a test to see where you fall on the resilience scale. Take it, it really is informative. O’Gorman’s words are empowering.

You will really get a lot out of this book and want to pass it on. But be sure to put your name in it, because you will definitely want it back to refer to later when you start thinking your ‘girly thoughts’!”

I hope you’ll take my mom’s advice and lose the “shoulds” in your life. You are strong and resilient, and even when you’re having a bad day (or two or three), remember: you are stronger than you think you are.

Yes, you are.

Now go out there and have an amazing week!

Happy Writing,


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Post title is a quote from an unknown author.

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

Turning Life’s Lemons into Limoncello

Lemons into LimoncelloToday is the official release of Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy by Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner. It’s a guidebook for finding self-acceptance, comfort, courage, and personal renewal on the heels of adversity—Italian style. Here’s what Steve Parillo, CEO of Parillo Tours, has to say:

Perhaps life has knocked you down one too many times. Or maybe you’ve just gone ‘stale.’ Dr. Mautner is part philosopher, part psychologist, part life coach—but entirely Italian. She offers Italian-style therapy: food, family, friends, and fun—a recipe for your own, personal renaissance. What would Freud say if he was Italian? Here’s your answer!”

The challenges we face over the course of a lifetime, especially those that involve major personal loss, can seem devastating, as radio personality and self-help specialist Dr. Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner discovered when her husband suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The Italian rituals and lifestyle habits she grew up with—and later began researching—were instrumental in helping her stay grounded, feel comforted, and be gently redirected to a new path of joy and the next level of her own personal transformation.

I assure you that this is a book you’ll refer to many times in your life. #selfhelp #grief Click To Tweet

At some point in our lives, most of us will experience the kind of personal devastation that accompanies something as devastating as the death of a loved one. But the loss of a job, a home, a pet, finances, health, a friendship or even the loss of one’s self-esteem can send us into a tailspin, too.

When in the throes of such challenges, it is hard to believe that we will ever enjoy life again, let alone possibly come away with the courage to live the next phase of our lives with deeper appreciation and clarity. Lemons into Limoncello offers a front-row seat to the Italian ability to arrangiarsi (get by) through elevating ordinary events to the extraordinary, and is the first self-help book to prescribe a traditional Italian cultural approach as a pathway to one’s own personal renaissance at a time when it is most needed.

Lemons were as big as footballs. And twice we ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the editor of this unique self-help book, I assure you that this is a book you’ll refer to many times in your life. And it’s one you’ll want to hand to a friend who is ready to move forward after adversity of any sort. The tone is warm and inclusive, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting at the author’s kitchen table with a cup of espresso and a biscotti (the recipe is in the book) as she shares her thoughts, wisdom, and advice.

You can learn more about the author:

Here’s one more review, this one from a NetGalley reviewer, to whet your appetite for this amazing book:

I truly enjoyed reading Mautner’s book Lemons into Limoncello. Not only did it have recipes, but it also had some wisdom in how to move on after disaster strikes no matter what type. She was able to weave her own story of painful loss of her husband untimely death along with her helpful tips for allowing the healing process to enfold in her life. Read this book, it is amazing. You will get some great recipes and great wisdom from a woman who has had her own journey.”  —Jamie Holloway, NetGalley

Update May 29, 2013: Connecticut Style television interview with the author about the book: 

Update June 18, 2013: Slideshow on


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Happy Reading!