Check Out Our Advice for a Fiction Manuscript Evaluation

Editorial Letter with Full Evaluation

In such type of evaluation, the editor will have to read your manuscript to the very end and provide comments regarding plot, point of view, voice, character, pacing, structure, imagery, themes, etc. All editors use a checklist while reading, writing down some notes in a designed template to guide the process of feedback. It contains the aspects mentioned above, with additional space for certain questions or concerns. 

At this stage, editors do not mark up the manuscript. Feedback is sent in a comprehensive, formal editorial letter that is based on the notes from the template. In some instances, it can be up to 20 pages long. It is an essay written about your novel. Most editors use the formatting style for evaluation, which is recommended by Barbara Sjohom in her book An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors.

  • Advantages

Fissional writers and those interested in feedback regarding every aspect of their work (novel), the editorial letter is a real treasure. It is a well-structured document that allows authors to refer to it when they need to revise the novel. Also, the editor’s comments and observations help the authors to look at their work with new eyes. Every author dreams that readers would dedicate as much time to their novels as editors do while analyzing them.      

  • Disadvantages
    Evaluation of the manuscript is considered the most expensive. You need to pay for the time editor pays to your work and for his/her expertise. It takes time to read the whole manuscript. However, creating a detailed editorial letter is even a more demanding task. Sometimes, for beginners, such time of commentary can be overwhelming. Often, fledgling novelists cannot handle so much information in case they submitted the editor the very first draft. That is why, at this stage, it is better to consider other options.  

Focus on Tools with Full Evaluation

In such type of evaluation, the editor reads the manuscript to the end and applies tools of revision and tracking to highlight the necessary aspects. The feedback is also provided in a form of comments and notes. It can be given as a spreadsheet, for instance, if the editor uses a tracking tool. After the author reviewed the editor’s feedback, the editor can have a Skype meeting with the author. 

Are you aware of what type of learner you are? In some cases when you see a visual presentation, it can assist you to detect and comprehend the problem area in your manuscript. For instance, marking points of the plot in a graph shows you a real picture of falling and rising action. Also, when the charts are used, they help you to track story elements and beats, which gives you an even bigger picture.  

Such charts keep the author organized when he/she writes. Moreover, they can assist the editor to faster detect problem areas in the manuscript. For instance, charts help to point at a possible pacing or structure problem.

Another versatile and excellent tool for the evaluation of manuscripts is Scrivener. It lets you keep all the research and notes you have taken in one place. What is more, your editor receives an opportunity to add his/her comments and notes on index cards of Scrivener as well as in doc notes. Comment feature can be found on Scrivener as well. It makes a useful visual, which in its turn highlights the structure. 

Scrivener is a great tool that helps to organize your work. Here you can use the Screenings feature to sort out various narrative threads (e.g., past and present). 

Authors can find useful feedbacks when using self-editing macros. Learn more about macros and the above-discussed tools: 

  • Advantages
    The tools give a so-called “show don’t tell” format of evaluation. They combine written comments with visual feedback. In several cases, visuals trigger an “aha” effect for the authors, who start seeing their work from a new perspective. Furthermore, they do so without malice or tone. The tools do all the talking, not the editors. Such an evaluation type is considered to be economical when the author needs to do his/her work of finishing templates and beat sheets as well as running macros. After that, the editor together with the author may have a conversation and decide how to solve all the issues detected by the tools. 
  • Disadvantages 
    If you prefer referring to a written document, and you are not fond of applying different digital tools, or maybe you have tried using them and realized that they are not your cup of tea, then such format will not fit you. The best manuscript evaluation tool is when the author and the editor cooperate. As a result, the learning curve is involved. Especially when you apply Scrivener and the above-mentioned macros. Of course, it required time and money investment to reach the desired goal.

Express Type of Evaluation

Express evaluation is considered to be a perfect option in case you a not experienced enough in writing novels or when you have finished some chapters and want to receive short feedback or guidance. Usually, the editor reads up to 50 pages of your work starting from the very first chapter and uses a comments sheet or Word Track Changes to highlight the problematic areas. Google Hangouts or Skype sessions may be offered as well. 

Such problems in the story like shifting view pint or too many chapters, or some other concerns, like the weak style of writing, awkward word choice, wrong punctuation, can be easily detected and highlighted in the early stages of the writing process. Every author is recommended to provide supporting materials, for instance, a list of characters and a summary of characters, family tree, etc., anything will be good if it helps the editor to see the fuller picture. 

  • Advantages
    When you are just a beginner in your career as a writer or you have just decided to start writing your novel, the express evaluation option can be useful since it will definitely save your time, money and will help you to get rid of stress. An individual may not know all the risks that can destroy his/her story, thus the author may choose the wrong direction. That is why editors work to offer problem solutions, they help to improve the author’s writing style. also, editors may offer the beginners to visit writing courses that will help them develop and improve their writing skills. 
  • Disadvantages 
    Because express evaluation is a short review of only a part of the manuscript, it will not help to detect problem areas later in your manuscript. Some editors do not do an express evaluation for a simple reason – something can take the wrong direction in Chapter 4! Every reader wants to read the story to a satisfying end. Oftentimes, the last 15-20% breaks or makes the whole novel. Consequently, the express evaluation will not help to assess your manuscript to the very end.        

Coaching for the Writing

Coaching while writing is an excellent alternative to evaluation. Due to being flexible, it may be provided in different forms previously agreed by the author and editor. Usually, the editor has to submit one or two chapters once a month and the editor reviews them using Word Track Changes for giving suggestions and comments. Some authors do not prefer feedbacks in a written form they choose to phone or Skype conversation instead. Such coaches charge by an hour.   

  • Advantages

Working with a writing coach is a low-risk approach that helps to check whether you are willing to cooperate with the editor. Also, it saves your money because you can monitor the costs by asking for a certain amount of coaching hours. It is a good approach and many authors prefer it since it helps them cope with the set deadlines.  

  • Disadvantages 
    if you find yourself super productive and write 100 or more pages, your coach will most like not to be willing to keep up with your tempo. Also, it will be difficult for the coach to provide you with large picture feedback when he/she receives it in installments. 

Recommendations on Effective Manuscript Evaluation

The editor is free to use and combine the formats to properly evaluate the manuscript. The below recommendations will assist you to understand what can be the most useful for you: 

Don't waste your time!

  • Contemplate what type of learner you are. In case you find a particular format helpful, find out if it is available.
  • Feel free to inform your editor about the budget you have. Editors, in most cases, are flexible, thus they can offer you services that will fit you and your pocket.
  • Do not forget that you are the one who buys the editor’s time. To read a 150,000-word manuscript and provide a 20-page analysis is a time-consuming job. However, rest assured that it will be detailed and helpful.
  • Ask in advance about the feedback form. In case you want to get written comments, do not hesitate to ask about them. 
  • Do not be afraid to ask the editor about the stage of writing best for evaluation. Should the first chapters go through express evaluation? Will it be better to make the full evaluation of the finished draft?   
  • Find out how many passes your editor can make on the submitted material. For instance, you will need to follow his/her suggestions while revising and then ask the editor to look at the material one more time. Ask if it is possible. 
  • Provide your editor with all the information. Inform him/her about characters, a style sheet, or a beat sheet. It is better to submit this info together with the draft. 


In case you trying to find a manuscript evaluation, you will definitely find it. Check out some editorial websites and find out what they can offer you. Finally, do not hesitate to ask questions. Editors like to receive questions and give answers. Remember that they work to help you.

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