Editing Novels in Stages: Limit The Expense

First Three Chapters Manuscript Evaluation

If you have painstakingly crafted a novel or work of non-fiction, you now need professional manuscript editing. Novels and all manuscripts must be well edited! The competition is stiff, and you want results, not rejections. So give your masterpiece a fighting chance. Ask for a professional opinion before you approach an agent or publisher.

You needn't pay a fortune. Save money by having your novel edited in stages.

I have worked for three Canadian publishers and have done freelance editing since before HarperCollins published my first novel in 2000. I've learned to save writers money by evaluation in stages. The First Three Chapters manuscript evaluation is a designed to evaluate the current state of your opening only, because the opening is all anyone will want to see until they're smitten.

I wanted to let you know that the first story we worked on has been published! Thank you for all of your great comments, and for giving me confidence in my writing.
~ S. Sanford Blades, BC

I just received a signed contract from a small Vancouver press for King of the Class! I don't have words to express how invaluable your editing was for the work. There were unquestionably times when I lost belief in myself and you urged me on. You are generous and superb. Thank you!
~ Gila Green, Israel

Many editors will be happy to accept your entire manuscript and spend hours accurately assessing its strengths and weaknesses. I offer full manuscript evaluations myself. But a full manuscript evaluation is costly and often premature if you are not yet certain that the first three chapters will meet an agent's or an editor's expectations.

An agent or editor will ask to see no more than the first three chapters to begin, and only if these chapters impress will you be asked to send the full manuscript. So ensure that those chapters work well before you undertake the cost of a full evaluation. Especially if you are on a budget, take the process one step at a time.

When I assess your first three chapters, I use a 50-point Quick Look Checklist to note what works and what needs action. The resulting comments allow you to increase your odds of acceptance significantly.

Later, you may want a full manuscript evaluation, but it will be most useful when your manuscript is very near completion—when it has been edited numerous times and many of the craft issues have already been resolved. Then, perhaps a few characters will need further development, or the pacing may need improvement in certain places. Maybe some scenes will need rearranging. Editing novels for these sorts of issues is called substantive editing.

First, I will check that your story has a consistent point of view; well structured scenes; concise, fluid, and original diction; effective dialogue; strong, non-intrusive internalizations; good pacing and action/reaction sequencing, a strong story question, and much more. All of this is clear in the first chapter or two, and if any of these elements are weak, it is unlikely an agent or editor will ask to see more. So why take the risk?

If you have written a book of non-fiction, I will comment on the depth of coverage, hook and voice, along with organization, structure, development and terminology. I will check for a strong premise, well-developed paragraphs, lively diction, and clarity, along with the many other qualities that fiction and non-fiction share.

Within 48 hours of submitting your first three chapters to me, expect to receive a 50-point list that covers these issues and more. Each point has an explanation and often links to further information, as well as a score that indicates how your novel measures up in each area.

For example, under Characterization, the explanatory line reads Do the characters seem genuine in their actions and realistic in their motivations? Can readers care about them? Even antagonistic or "unlikeable" characters must act in ways the reader will understand. For further help see Creating Characters I, Creating Characters II and Character Motivation.

Evaluations such as Strong, Good, Fair, or No Problem or Needs Work indicate the strength of the characterization in your ms. and detailed comments at the end of the evaluation elaborate where necessary, to provide as much helpful direction as possible.

The cost to review your first three chapters with the Quick Look Checklist is $99. Should you have any questions after you receive your evaluation, you may follow up in an email and I will respond promptly.

If your manuscript is ready for a professional eye, CONTACT ME and we will get started.

Thank you so much for your evaluation of my manuscript, Raised by Committee. The type of feedback you've given is exactly what I was looking for—succinct, relevant and useful. Your ability to pinpoint two inconsistencies in the text enabled me to make needed edits. Your feedback exceeded my expectations, and your turn around time was amazing. Thank you, Pearl, it was a pleasure working with you, and money well spent.
~ C. Haynes, Qualicum Beach, BC

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