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Manuscript Critiques and Evaluations

by Floyd Largent

If you've recently completed a book-length manuscript, then it's advisable to run it past another pair of eyes before you send it out into the world. As the author, you may be too close to the project to see its potential flaws, from minor continuity errors to major plot holes—especially if you've been tightly focused on copyediting or on just getting the project done. Incidentally, those new eyes should be unbiased; while you may have a relative willing to do a critique for free, they're likely to be a) so wowed by the fact that you've written a book and b) too unwilling to hurt your feelings to offer you honest criticism about it.

I can provide an unbiased set of eyes for you. My critique/evaluation methodology is to read the entire manuscript carefully at least twice, leaving in-text comments scattered throughout using MS Word's Comments feature.  Depending on the level of reworking required and the length of the manuscript, the number of in-text comments may vary from as few as 20 to more than 200. This is strictly a review; I make no attempt to copyedit the work.

Once I've completed the review reads, I'll then write a detailed evaluation report explaining, in general terms, what I think is both right and wrong with the manuscript, using the in-text comments as specific examples. If I believe the manuscript needs a copyedit or developmental edit, I'll note that in the review. My goal otherwise is to guide you toward the points you should cover and the plot holes you should repair in a rewrite of the manuscript.

My comments, both in the text and in the report, tend to be blunt and straightforward, while simultaneously offering encouragement. The final report can range from 5-20 double-spaced pages long, depending on how much reworking I believe the manuscript requires. The average is 12-14 pages.

Writing is a tough job—the fact that you've completed a book-length manuscript in the first place puts you in a rank above most of the people who call themselves writers, and immediately earns you my congratulations.  My fondest hope is that, having demonstrated the gumption it takes to write a book, you'll then apply my suggestions to it and move forward in your publication efforts.