So did the editor like my novel? I promised to give you an update and share some information on selecting an editor. What follows is a breakdown of the assessment I received along with my Top 10 Tips for a Manuscript Assessment.
There are plenty of websites out there telling you how to select an editor and that will describe the different types of editing. If you’re a beginning writer, know that you can you can Google this just as easily as you can Google the most popular Christmas song of all time. Silent Night, by the way, is more than twice as popular as the #2 song.
I selected Warner Coaching, Inc. and Editor Brooke Warner to review my manuscript based on a referral from a published author I met in a writing class. During our email exchange, I got a feel for how prompt she was; how open to questions (I’m new, remember?!); what the report would look like; and how payment would be handled. I paid about 40 percent when I sent the manuscript and the balance after I received the evaluation. The process took about three weeks from the time I emailed my manuscript.
What follows is a little bit like showing you my underwear
Brooke’s assessment started with an overview and then flowed into specifics. She was direct but encouraging and most of all, she was professional. Sections in italics are excerpted directly from the assessment.
Tell Me What You Want is a solid effort at crafting a broadly appealing, suspenseful page-turner. At this stage, additional developmental editing will help you to ensure that the book is more streamlined and nuanced and that the characters who shepherd your readers through these pages are as distinctive as possible.
Key Themes/Reader Takeaways
Some of the valuable lessons that you share in the manuscript include the following-
I won’t give away all my secrets here. This section was 7 bullet points detailing what the editor thought my story was about. Good news – she got my messages.
The book is structured ambitiously, as it alternates between different points of view, but very consistently. It is easy to follow and proceeds chronologically.
Details in this section included some recommendations regarding a main character and eliminating one POV for streamlining.
The pacing of the book is fluid overall, but it suffers at times from unnecessary repetition of details and ideas that bog down the plot.
(p. 71): “Jenny had told her a couple of times that she’d done some amazing things in her life but Shelly never seemed satisfied.” We already know that Jenny feels this way, because Shelly has already shared this information with the reader.
The paragraph above is one of seven Brooke wrote citing specific page numbers and quotes directly from the manuscript along with her recommendations for improvement.
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
― Dr. Seuss
Shelly’s character has the most dramatic arc in the story and is well done, as is Greg’s. In particular, Jenny’s character, albeit likable, feels quite one-note, which is part of the reason why her point of view doesn’t add significant value to the narrative. A developmental editor can help you to tease out each of these key characters’ unique attributes to make them more distinctive.
The editor included several paragraphs of examples here both positive and those needing revision.
You have a good instinct for developing scenes, most of which are fluid and well wrought in this book. The primary exceptions are the scenes involving the following plotlines:
Again, specific examples of unbelievable coincidences or unlikely events were detailed with page numbers, quotes and recommendations for improvement.
The book’s dialogue is quite strong overall. It feels natural and both true to life and true to your characters’ distinct personalities. My one recommendation in this area is to eliminate the use of the nicknames…etc. Eliminating this language from these women’s conversations would serve both conversational flow and character development.
Brooke commented not only on the wording that sounded forced but also how it didn’t mesh with some characters’ personalities that were previously established.
Point of View
Your current approach of using three alternating points of view is successful in the sense that it is consistent and comprehensible. However, I do not think that Jenny’s point of view enhances the manuscript significantly (although I would not remove her character from the story entirely). In addition, on p. 81, there’s an abrupt POV shift.
The editor pointed out why she thought this POV should be eliminated and suggested either reworking it myself or with the help of a developmental editor. She explained why it wasn’t working or wasn’t necessary as well.
Tone and Style
Your writing style and tone are consistent but at times you employ clichéd language. In addition, you sometimes rely on telling the reader what your characters are feeling, rather than showing it.
Here she gave page numbers and quotes as well as suggestions for more nuanced language and fresher descriptions. Much of this I would have caught as I began revising but it is helpful to have the examples to follow as I check through the manuscript.
Grammar and Punctuation
The book needs a medium to heavy copyedit after all of the developmental work is complete, to fix grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors.
Was it Worth it and What’s Next?
In a more extensive developmental edit, the editor would go into even more detail. This was the right step for me taking my goals into consideration. I am using this book as a learning process. I wanted to get professional feedback from someone that had read the entire manuscript instead of just excerpts. Now I know what my strengths are and where I need to focus for the most improvement.
My revision process has started with character profiles. I’m trying to make my characters more three-dimensional. I have applied and been accepted to the Novel In a Year program at Story Studio and my plan is to work on and finish the second draft in this class. So that’s where I’m at. Leave me a note to let me know where you are with your latest project.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for a ManuscriptAssessment
- Ask for referrals, send emails or call explaining your project and what you need
- Make sure you understand what is included, ask questions
- Decide what level of help you need
- Receive feedback with an open mind – anything can be fixed once it’s on the page.
- Pay on time. This might be your first time dealing with professionals in the publishing industry. You want to project professionalism.
- KEEP WRITING. Whether it’s short stories or an outline for a new project, keep working while the editor is reading your manuscript and preparing the assessment. Don’t sit and wait.
- Read it and ignore it. That’s right. You will be curious and anxious and excited and possibly distressed. Read it and then let it, and your ego, rest. Go on to something else and come back to the assessment when you are ready to begin revisions.
- Follow the editor’s advice. You paid him. He’s an expert. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring his advice.
- Don’t follow the editor’s advice. It’s your story and if you think they’re dead wrong about a beloved character or plot twist, follow your gut. Take a risk.
- Exercise your rewriting muscles remembering that anything can be improved. Make use of the information you received for future projects as well.