Lately, I’ve had a number of writers ask me to explain the difference between a manuscript evaluation report and my other editorial services. Some thought it was a critique of the manuscript, while others believed it was a substantive/big picture edit. It’s neither and both, sort of. With a manuscript evaluation report, I don’t comment directly on the manuscript as I would with a substantive edit or developmental copyediting. Instead, I take notes as I read, then put my comments in a report that explains the good, the bad, and the ugly of your manuscript. I’ll look at character development, the GMCs (goals, motivations, conflicts), plot structure, pacing, dialogue, narrative, voice, mechanics, emotions, romance and sexual tension (if applicable), logic fails, world building, conflict resolution, and more.
A manuscript evaluation report is a general report, similar to what you might receive from an agent who gave you feedback before signing you on as a client. While this report
states the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript, it doesn’t offer solutions to the problems. However, that service is available under substantive/big picture editing, manuscript developmental copyediting, or fiction writing coaching. This service provides an evaluation of your manuscript, not an edit.
Check out what a client said about the report she recently received from me.
“I highly recommend Lynnette Labelle and her services. After laboring away at my very first novel for 2.5 years and several rewrite cycles, I hired Lynnette to do a manuscript evaluation report. I had gotten my manuscript as far as I could without professional outside advice, and boy, did she deliver! Her feedback was very well structured and insightful. She’s a prompt and professional communicator and even accommodated me, working around my schedule to meet a deadline I had set for myself. Her input has been a tremendous help in bringing my story and my characters to the next level as I work through the list of things she pointed out that needed improving or changing. Sometimes, when you work on a large project such as a book for a long time, you stop seeing the big picture. Lynnette helped me refocus and notice where the book was weak, the characters unconvincing, the story not logical, and the flow dragging. I can’t thank her enough and am immensely grateful to have found her.”
Here’s a small sample of a manuscript evaluation report:
Manuscript Evaluation Report for TITLE
Overall: The story is interesting and made me laugh. I enjoyed the author’s voice, which was light and witty. However, the main character, Jane Doe, isn’t all that likeable. She’s emotionless, cold, and sometimes heartless, having no empathy for others. In order for readers to relate to her, she needs to show feelings and emotions. She can still appear removed and distant, to the other characters, but it should be clear to the reader, through Jane’s POV (point of view), that she actually has feelings, even if she chooses to hide them.
Beginning: I don’t feel you’re starting at the right place. This beginning is an info/backstory dump. Some of this information may be necessary, but it should be layered into story, not dumped at the beginning. Instead, you should start with the inciting incident, the moment when the protagonist’s normal world is suddenly thrown upside down.
Dialogue: Some of the dialogue isn’t realistic, or it’s backstory that’s been added as dialogue to fill the reader in when the character should’ve already known.
“Hey, Dale, remember the time you tossed a water balloon at me, and it hit me in the face? Then, I had to go to the hospital, because a part of the balloon had gotten stuck in my eye. I had to stay there for three weeks, until my vision finally improved, but you visited me every day.” Obviously, Dale doesn’t need all these details. He knows what happened, including how often he visited. It would be more realistic to say, “Remember the time you tossed a water balloon at me, and it hit me in the face?” Then have Dale react, saying he remembered or how bad he felt, etc.
Emotions: I don’t feel Jane’s emotions, which makes it hard to connect with her. The reader is either being TOLD how Jane feels, or the topic is avoided altogether. There’s a lack of physical reactions both conscious and subconscious that would help show her emotions. Imagine how Jane would feel about this and that, and how she’d react because of how she’s feeling. Show this to the reader.
A manuscript evaluation report is perfect for the writer who has a hard time identifying flaws in his work but is capable of fixing the problem areas once they’ve been identified.
This service is great for a writer who has doubts about certain areas of her story. For example, if she wondered if her beginning was too slow, the report would answer that question, and she could go on to fix the issue. Or if she felt her protagonist wasn’t likeable, the report would either reassure her that Jane is likeable or confirm that she isn’t.
A manuscript evaluation report is also good for a writer who’s still in the early stages of his draft and wants to ensure the story isn’t all over the place before he begins the editing stage.
If you have any questions about a manuscript evaluation report, or if you’d like to check my availability, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org