What a Manuscript Critique Can Do for an Author
A manuscript critique is an excellent way to receive feedback from a professional in the earliest stages of revision. Plot holes, confusing explanations, accidental shifts in point of view—these can happen even to veteran authors. You’ll want to identify and eliminate such issues as soon as possible since they’ll be much more difficult (and expensive) to fix later on.
A manuscript critique allows an author to revise their draft based on tailored, professional feedback and create a better version of their book that is more likely to get picked up by a publisher and purchased by readers.
Unfortunately, confusion surrounds manuscript critiques—authors may not know what they are or perhaps have never even heard of them. In this post, we cover the basics of manuscript critiques and what you can expect when you order one. For more information about how this kind of assessment can help you, check out our manuscript critique service. We can provide valuable insight on what’s working and what isn’t, along with thoughtful suggestions for bringing out the best in your story.
The basics of a manuscript critique
What it is
A manuscript critique is a broad evaluation of the major elements of a book, such as its plot, characters, structure, pacing, and general consistency of the writing. It also assesses how the book fits into its genre and the current market—if your goal is to publish and sell your work, you’ll need to cater to current market expectations.
The editor providing the critique will write a multi-page report evaluating which story elements are working and which are not. Crucially, they also provide recommendations for revisions that could improve the story. For example, they may recommend changing or removing a scene if the pacing is off or including an additional interaction between characters to flesh out their motivations.
Since all you receive is this editorial letter, the feedback tends to be general, with limited specific examples to guide you in the revision process. Still, it’s excellent for authors on a tight budget or those who want to undertake broad revisions before sending their manuscript to a developmental editor.
What it isn’t
A manuscript critique is not a developmental edit. The two are often confused because they both focus on macro-level features of the story. However, even if the type of feedback is the same, a developmental edit is far more thorough than a manuscript critique. It is more time-consuming, with the developmental editor adding detailed notes throughout your manuscript to alert you to issues and suggest ways of rectifying them. Therefore, it is more expensive.
With a developmental edit, you’ll usually receive an editorial letter containing the editor’s overall impressions of your manuscript, as you would with a manuscript critique, but the primary value of a developmental edit is in the copious notes the editor leaves in the margins of your draft. This gives you a much clearer idea of what isn’t working and how to fix it since the editor has identified the particular sections where the problem occurs. They leave these notes throughout your manuscript as they work through it, so they’ll even flag recurring issues, making them easier for you to address.
Which is better: a manuscript critique or a developmental edit?
There is no simple answer to this question because the choice depends on what you want and what your budget is.
A manuscript critique can be useful if you can’t afford a full developmental edit but still need some professional guidance. It can still help you polish your manuscript—you just won’t get as many detailed recommendations. It can also be a good option if you feel you don’t need the in-depth guidance of a developmental editor but do want pointers on what is and isn’t working. Many authors like to purchase a manuscript critique to identify the biggest issues in their story before investing in a developmental edit.
A developmental edit can be a better fit if you’re stuck with your manuscript and don’t know how to develop it further since this type of editing offers more concrete examples of how to revise the story.