A manuscript evaluation report is the best way to learn if your story and characters are doing what they should before you invest a lot of money into editing. If you’re a new writer or a writer without a solid critique group, I would suggest going with this service rather than jumping into editing. With a manuscript evaluation report, you’ll learn what is and isn’t working in your story, so you’ll know where you have to revise and what you need to cut or rewrite. This means you’ll be able to provide your editor with a cleaner copy, which translates into you walking away with a stronger manuscript.
Why shouldn’t you send a first draft or rough draft to your editor and skip the manuscript evaluation report? It’s simple. If your manuscript isn’t ready for editing, you’ll end up with rewrite recommendations instead of revision suggestions. In other words, whatever you rewrite wouldn’t have been edited, so you’ll need to have the manuscript edited a second time or risk having inconsistencies with style, pacing, character development, and more.
Here are some of the things I’ll look at when I evaluate your manuscript:
Overall story: Does the story work? Is the plot interesting? Is there a story goal? Is the goal big enough to chase throughout the novel? Is there enough conflict? Do we know what’s at stake? Are there plot holes?
Beginning: Does the story start at the right place? Does the beginning hook the reader? Is there an info or backstory dump? Is the reader engaged?
Backstory/info dumps: Are there backstory or information dumps throughout the novel? Should the information be cut or layered into the story?
Dialogue: Is the dialogue stilted? Does the dialogue feel realistic or fluffy? Is the dialogue used to inform the reader of something the characters already know? Does the dialogue suit the character?
Pacing: Is the pacing too slow or too fast? Do details need to be added or cut to correct this?
GMCs: Are the protagonist’s goals, motivations, and conflicts clear throughout? Are they strong enough? Can the conflict be resolved with a conversation?
Emotions and deep POV: Does the author dig deep enough into the POV (point of view) character’s POV? Are emotions named or shown? Do we know how a character is feeling and/or what he’s thinking? Can we feel what he’s feeling and experience the story through his eyes?
Show, don’t tell: While it’s sometimes okay to tell something in a story, most of the time, things should be shown. Is “show, don’t tell” followed in the manuscript?
Character development: Are the main characters three-dimensional? Does the protagonist start off flawed and grow by the end of the story? Are her GMCs clear? Is the character consistent? Are her actions and reactions logical? Is she likeable?
Conflict: Is there conflict in every scene? Is the story conflict strong enough to sustain a whole novel?
The stakes: Do we know what’s at stake? Do the stakes keep rising?
Love connection (if applicable): Does the hero and heroine’s first meet work? Do we want them to get together? Do we feel their sexual tension? Does the sex scene (if applicable) leave us wanting more, or does it satisfy us? Do we believe these characters are in love? Are we happy for them in the end?
Middle: Does the middle sag? Or does it keep moving and make us wanting for more? Are the scene goals still obvious? Is conflict still present in every scene?
Realism/logic: Are the plot points realistic? Are the character’s actions and reactions logical? Or do certain elements feel contrived?
POV slip: Do we stay grounded in the POV character’s POV? Or does the author slip in and out of his POV?
Talking heads: Can we visualize the scenes as characters are having a conversation? Or are we simply seeing talking heads without action, setting, reaction, or feeling?
Black moment: Is the black moment obvious? Is it strong enough? Is it placed close to the ending?
Conflict resolution: Is the conflict resolved in a logical and satisfying way? Did the protagonist have to work for this resolution? Has he earned it?
Ending: Does the ending satisfy the reader? Is everything resolved (unless intentionally left open to continue the series)? Is the ending rushed? Does the ending go on too long?
Voice: Is the author’s voice present? Does it stay consistent throughout the novel?
World building (if applicable): Is the world clear? Are there too many setting details and descriptions, which bog down the pace?
Strengths: What are the author’s and/or the manuscript’s strengths?
When you order a manuscript evaluation report, I’ll peruse your manuscript, taking notes along the way based off common issues, like the ones mentioned above. I’ll write a report based on what I feel is or isn’t working in your story. This is a general report, similar to what you might receive from an agent who gave you feedback before signing you on as a client, but I’ll also offer suggestions on how to improve and/or how to fix the issues.
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 has feelings, even if she chooses to hide them. The story goal is clear, and Jane chases it throughout the novel in a realistic way. Most of the time, there was enough conflict, but the scene where Jane and Evan find the lucky penny lacks conflict. It might work to combine that scene with the next scene if you don’t want to add more conflict to this scene. I don’t mean to simply join the two scenes. Instead, you should layer them together.
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. In this case, I would suggest starting with (insert idea) because (insert explanation).
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.
Otherwise, the rest of the dialogue reads well. It flows naturally and is sometimes funny.
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.
I can’t stress this enough. It’s best to get the story right before you jump into editing. What if something in your plot doesn’t work and requires a major rewrite? Wouldn’t you prefer to fix the issue before you have the work edited to ensure the strongest, most polished copy?