Manuscript Evaluation

I offer manuscript evaluations for memoir and nonfiction trade books.

A manuscript evaluation looks at “big picture” issues like content, audience, structure, length, themes, chronology, storytelling techniques, point of view, and voice. I assess strengths and weaknesses, focusing on how to turn any weaknesses into strengths. The specific elements that I analyze will depend on your manuscript.

I will read your complete draft with an ear attuned to your audience: Who do you imagine reading your book, and what would you like readers to come away with? I also look for ways to develop the premise or controlling idea—your purpose in writing. I help you to envision not only what the book is, but what it could be.

I will provide you with a comprehensive assessment in the form of an editorial letter. My letters range from 10 to 15 pages (3,000 to 4,500 words). You may think that this is an old-fashioned approach, and I suppose it is. The advantage is that a letter provides you with my analyses and comments in one place; you don’t have to hunt through emails or various versions of the file. You can read the letter at leisure and refer back to it easily.

For me, writing an editorial letter is a discipline. It forces me to organize my thoughts and express them clearly for your benefit. In the letter, I summarize problems and propose solutions using excerpts from your manuscript. I will also provide you with a revised outline or table of contents to show the reorganization of chapters or sections, and to suggest new headings. While writing the letter, I will communicate with you as needed to ask questions and to generally check-in. There should be no surprises.

If we decide that your manuscript doesn’t need a comprehensive assessment, I can tailor a shorter letter to aspects of the writing that most concern you.

A manuscript assessment is often a necessary first step, because it doesn’t make sense to fine-tune paragraphs and sentences until both of us are satisfied with the overall structure.

One caveat: You should be willing and able to substantially revise the manuscript. I can help you with the revision if needed.

I welcome manuscripts on any topic. I’m especially interested in memoir, biography, history, religion, Indigenous culture, international development, human rights, mental health, health, nature, the environment, and music.

On request, I will send you a sample letter to help you decide whether manuscript evaluation is right for you.