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.

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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

6 thoughts on “How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Manuscript Evaluation”

  1. Thanks for this post, Candace. I like the idea of a big-picture look at a manuscript, and I suppose the point at which that is desirable would be different for each writer. I know that the longer I work on a manuscript, the harder it is for me to consider making any changes. Is there an ideal point at which a writer should have her manuscript evaluated, some sweet spot between a draft that still has a lot of moveable parts and a finely honed finished work?

    1. Such a great question, and such a difficult one to answer! Each case is different, of course, but generally speaking, when you reach the point that you feel you’ve done all you can on your own, consider hiring a professional to evaluate your work. Most of the authors who hire me for an evaluation do so when they feel their work is ready to submit or publish (or very close to it), and they just want a fresh set of eyes to look it over. The interesting thing is that once I’ve identified areas (sometimes minor, sometimes major) for improvement, each one of those authors has been re-energized to continue revisions, which ultimately leads to a much stronger manuscript. As with any type of editing, the decision to accept the advice or not is always the author’s, but you can’t fix what you don’t know is a problem.

      1. What a great answer! It makes sense to get an evaluation once the author has done all she can do on her own, and it also makes sense that your evaluation might energize the author to revise. Thanks so much!

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