Evaluating a Novel’s Draft

After you finish a draft of a novel, serious congratulations are in order. So many writers abandon their novels before they type “The End,” that you’re already in rare company when you finish a draft. Celebrate a little. But then what? Should you hire an editor right away?
Writing Tip for Today: If you have a great critique group, you may already know about your novel’s problems, if there are any. Before you rush out to find an editor, consider getting a Manuscript Evaluation. Here’s why:

  • Manuscript Evals tend to be more affordable and take less time.
  • You don’t waste money on edits that might not make it to a final draft.
  • You get a pair of fresh eyes to read your book–one that doesn’t already know you as well as a critique partner or group. An objective analysis won’t make the kinds of assumptions that often color the feedback from those closer to you.
  • You can choose which suggestions to write into your manuscript, try them out, see if they truly fix whatever problem the suggestion was supposed to address.
  • To find a good Ms. Evaluator, look for someone who is well-published, has strong editorial or teaching experience, or comes recommended by a fellow writer (or can give several references, which you can then check). Online or in-person is up to you, but don’t send money to anyone you haven’t vetted.
  • Other Considerations: A good evaluation should be able to give praise for the elements which are working (the strengths) as well as structural (story) advice, help with scenic elements, pace, any point of view problems, and suggest possible fixes for the novel. I always type out an 8-10 page evaluation so that the writer can study the evaluation at his/her leisure.
  • Find Encouragement. Additionally, a manuscript evaluation should find ways to encourage the writer. If a lot of rewriting is recommended, the writer will probably feel shocked, disappointed that the book isn’t ready yet, and many other emotions. I always suggest the writer take a few steps back, give him/herself time to process the advice, and remember that writing is a difficult, subjective pursuit. Advice is only an opinion. Writing is a craft and you can learn a craft. Don’t give up, and above all, keep writing.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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