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What is a Manuscript Critique and How Can it Improve Your Book?

Bijgewerkt op: 18 mei

You’ve finished your first draft, and you’ve heard about several different next steps you can now take. One of them was this thing called a manuscript critique.

But what is a manuscript critique? Does it give you enough information to improve your manuscript? What does it offer? And do you even need it?

All those questions and more will be answered below.

what is a manuscript critique and how can it improve your book?

What is covered in a manuscript critique?

You can see a manuscript critique as an entry-level edit or perhaps as a light form of a developmental edit. This is because the issues covered within a manuscript critique are the same as within a developmental edit, only less extensive.

The elements that are covered generally include:

  • Plot structure;

  • Theme;

  • Consistency;

  • Character development;

  • Character voice;

  • Point of view;

  • Overall weaknesses and strengths.

The editor will go over your manuscript and you’ll receive an editorial letter explaining all the things that can be improved within your manuscript.

As I said, this is very similar to a developmental edit. However, the latter will go more in-depth on the potential issues and will give more examples of potential solutions to give the writer more direction. It also includes in-line comments, whereas a manuscript critique usually doesn’t have any comments within the text.

What is an editorial letter?

By now you may wonder what an editorial letter is and what you can expect from it. It’s essentially the editor’s very thorough response after reading your manuscript. Depending on the length of your manuscript, this can be anywhere between 5 to 15 pages.

Within this letter, the editor will discuss all the points above and tell you what works and which parts still need work. A good editor will also tell you why so you can understand why a change is necessary and how you may be able to fix the issue.

(As a comparison, an editorial letter for a developmental edit for a full novel is usually between 30 to 40 pages).

How do you critique a novel?

As I said, a manuscript critique is essentially a “developmental edit light.”

It’s possible to critique your own novel (in fact, I would recommend you try a developmental edit yourself before sending it to a professional) if you follow a good plan.

You can follow the steps I’ve outlined in this article to help you evaluate your book’s structure. Getting this right is one of the most important things you can do for your book. Below you can also find two videos I did on my Facebook page, explaining how you can determine your book’s structure and evaluate it (for fiction and nonfiction).

For fiction

For nonfiction

In addition, take a good look at your character’s actions and whether or not they are consistent. How do two characters interact with each other?

Is this consistent?

Does the interaction change? If so, does it change in a logical manner?

Doing this will also help you understand your novel in a different way than before. It may help you see things you’ve previously missed.


Would you like some help with your developmental editing? Then this developmental editing planner is the one for you! It contains a checklist followed by detailed information and worksheets to perfect your developmental editing process.

Click the button below to buy on Etsy.


Do you need a manuscript critique?

If you’ve done your own developmental edit, do you then still need a manuscript critique? Or should you get a developmental edit instead? Let’s discuss how you can figure out if you need one or the other.

The main benefit of a manuscript critique compared to a developmental edit is the pricing.

There’s no doubt about it that a developmental edit can be expensive, especially if you have a novel tracking over 80k words. A manuscript critique is a more budget-friendly option. Especially if you also want to have a copy edit or proofread later and need a budget for formatting and book cover design.

Some other benefits of a manuscript critique are:

  • Getting an outside professional opinion. When you write a book, it becomes harder to evaluate your book objectively. An outsider doesn’t have this issue and can read your book with fresh eyes, spotting things you might have missed.

  • Potential improvements of your writing. Most editors will give you tips and advice on your prose and how to improve it as well.

  • A new perspective to move forward. Perhaps you’ve felt stuck with your book. You know something is missing or not quite right, but you can’t figure out what it is. A manuscript critique can show you where your story still needs work. This helps you move forward with your story.

Does a manuscript critique give you enough direction?

One main concern you may have is whether or not a manuscript critique will give you enough direction to help you move forward with your novel.

The most honest answer I can give to that is: it depends.

If you’re a seasoned writer who’s written multiple books and knows how structure works, a manuscript critique will be more than enough. You’ll understand how you can fix the issues pointed out by the editor.

On the other hand, if you’re more at the beginning of your writing journey and have only a basic understanding of story structure, a manuscript critique may not be enough.

For me, the biggest difference between the two is the amount of support and direction you receive. In a developmental edit, you’ll get multiple examples and ideas on how you could fix a potential issue. This should give you a good idea of how you can fix something and will help you come up with a solution.

For a manuscript critique, you usually get an explanation of the issue, why it is an issue, and a general how you can fix it. Sometimes, depending on the editor, you may not even get a how (always make sure you get a how from the editor as well, ask questions and do your research).

If you can work with only knowing how to fix something and you don’t need examples, then a manuscript critique should give you all the information you need.

At the end of the day, you have numerous things to take into consideration and make a decision based on that. I hope at least that this article has shed some more light on what a manuscript critique is, how you can critique your own novel (and why you should), and whether it is the right service for you.

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