What Is a Manuscript Critique?

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

A manuscript critique (for fiction) involves reading a manuscript in its entirety and offering feedback on the story overall. This feedback will typically be given in an editorial report and will focus on the larger elements of the story such as point of view, characterisation, plot, pacing and structure.

Because it looks at the bigger picture, it comes earlier in the editing process, during the developmental editing phase.

What's included in a manuscript critique? (And what isn't?)

An editor offering manuscript critique services typically won't make any changes to your text, instead offering an editorial report and potentially in-text comments, depending on the editor. These will focus on the elements mentioned above (point of view, characterisation, plot, pacing and structure) as well as anything else that an editor feels worth mentioning that could improve your story (or that they think you do really well!).

A manuscript critique won't offer you guidance on improving the flow of your story sentence by sentence, and it won't include checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. These things come later in the editing process, during copyediting (or line editing) and proofreading.

The reason for this is that after a manuscript critique, it is common for a lot of things in a story to change. Certain scenes may be cut completely or cut down considerably. You may even remove one or two of your characters. Basically, after a manuscript critique, you can expect to do a fair bit of rewriting.

Copyediting and proofreading at this stage is therefore a waste of time for your editor, and a waste of money for you, as the chances are, you'll end up removing or rewriting a fair amount of the text.

Having said that, if there are certain issues that crop up at the sentence level such as the overuse of certain language or sentence structures, it is likely that an editor offering a manuscript critique will flag this up in their report.

What are the benefits of getting a manuscript critique?

  • It will give you an outside professional opinion where others may have been too kind or biased towards you (aka, your loving family and friends). Also, unlike your friends and family, if you really want, after the critique, you never have to speak to your editor again! (Although I sincerely hope it never comes to that.)

  • It can help you to move forward with your story rather than letting your creativity and drive stagnate. Sometimes you just need that extra push to show you where your story's strengths lie, and where it could be improved, to allow you to take those next steps, whatever they are.

  • It's far cheaper than a structural edit and provides you with the tools to improve not only the manuscript that's been critiqued, but your future work too. The comments you receive will likely highlight areas where you as a writer may not be as developed, as well as showing you what your strengths are. This will make you extra aware when writing in the future.

  • It can help you to hone your writing craft. An editor offering manuscript critique services will offer you feedback with suggestions on how to improve certain elements of your story. This kind of feedback can be invaluable as a writer, especially if you're new to writing and this is your first story.

Who should get a manuscript critique?

Ultimately, a manuscript critique is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their story. But it's important to mention, you have to be willing to take on board feedback.

It can be incredibly useful if your goal is to get traditionally published, as it will highlight areas that a publishing house is likely to pick up on and allows you to iron out those problems before embarking on the incredibly long and energy-intensive process of submitting your manuscript. 

But it's not just for those who want to go down the traditional publishing route. It's for those who want to self-publish too, as having a solid story is essential when gaining success as a self-published author. But make sure you get a critique before spending money on copyediting and proofreading services (which are also vital when self-publishing). 

It's also for anyone who wants to hone their writing craft in general. You may have a story that you don't want to publish at all. You may just want to get your writing to a level where the next book you write will be the one you put out into the world. 

My manuscript critique process

If a manuscript critique is something you feel would benefit you and your story, why not get in touch

My manuscript critique service is available to authors with a story in the following genres:
  • Fantasy (MG, YA and Adult)
  • Science Fiction (YA and Adult)
  • Literary Fiction (Adult)
  • Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction (Adult)
  • Mystery/Thriller (Adult)
  • Historical Fiction (MG, YA and Adult)

When you send your manuscript to me, you will receive one full read through of your story, whereby I will comment in the document as I go along, providing you with real-time comments on my thoughts at each point in the story. 

After this read through, I will collate all my thoughts into an editorial report in which I will go in-depth into the areas listed above (POV, plot, pacing, characterisation, themes, structure, etc), with the benefit of knowing exactly how the story has panned out. This report will be 3-6 pages in length.

For full details about this service, including pricing and turnaround times, click here.

Anyway, that's about it when it comes to manuscript critique services. It's always worthwhile to 'shop around' and find an editor who specialises in the kind of story you've written, as you want to make sure you're getting the best possible feedback on your story.

Whatever you decide, good luck with your writing! 

Until the next time,

Candida