by Victoria Howard
You’ve written a novel. Congratulations. Finishing a novel of 80,000-100,000 words is a major accomplishment. So give yourself a pat on the back, or if you prefer, pour yourself a large glass of wine.
Before you start what could be a very long process of querying a literary agent or publisher ask yourself these questions; is my novel really finished and is it of publishable quality?
If this is the first draft, the answer is definitely NO, as agents and publishers only accept a very small percentage of the books that arrive in their office as Agatha Christie, Margaret Mitchel, and more recently, J K Rowling, who all had manuscripts rejected, can attest. The chances of you finding an agent, being published or generating sales if you choose to self-publish, are much higher if your book is as good as it possibly can be prior to submission.
One of the biggest mistakes first time writers make is showing their manuscript to family and friends who will confirm the book’s merit despite the fact they have no knowledge of the publishing industry.
So how can you be sure the manuscript you’ve spent months slaving over is ready to be sent out to the big wide world? You could join a local critique group, but chances are most of the members are like you – vying for that elusive publishing contract.
A far better option is a detailed manuscript evaluation. So what exactly do I mean by a manuscript evaluation and what does it involve?
There are two types of evaluations based on how much of your book the editor reads and the kind of feedback they provide.
In a full evaluation, the editor will read your entire manuscript and provide feedback on elements such as character development, voice, setting, pacing, structure and more. A full evaluation is expensive and the fee is based on the word count.
An express or three-chapter evaluation can be a better choice for the inexperienced writer. Typically, I read the first 50-60 pages of your manuscript, along with a short synopsis, and then provide a written report highlighting any issues, such as lack of dialogue, too much backstory.
My written evaluation begins with my general impression of the opening chapters as a reader. I will then evaluate the following:
- Opening Scene.
- Plot and Conflict
- Characterisation and Motivation.
- Setting, description, and scene development.
- Point of view.
- Formatting, and grammar.
- Overall impression.
If required, I can make notes in the margins using MS Word’s Track Changes. I will also be able to make suggestions as to how you can improve and enrich your story, and analyse the book’s marketability.
In my next post I will talk more about the opening scene and how important it is to hook the reader.
Victoria Howard is the author of three romantic suspense novels; The House on the Shore, (a 2009 Joan Hessayon Award finalist), Three Weeks Last Spring, and Ring of Lies. She is also the author of several short stories, including the Kindle short, A Little Protection.
Born in Liverpool, Victoria trained as a medical secretary, and subsequently worked for the National Health Service. She spent twenty years living on a croft in the Highlands of Scotland, managing a company involved in the offshore oil and gas industry.
During those rare times when she isn’t writing, Victoria can be found curled up with a book, gardening, designing knitwear, walking her Border collie, Rosie, or traveling the world.
Victoria is a member of Romantic Novelists’ Association.