Sample Manuscript Review

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A Manuscript Review

Because each manuscript is different we don’t have a flat fee or a page per fee for editorial work. We usually review the manuscript. A manuscript review is an in-depth evaluation of your book and would let you know what type of editing it needs: line editing for grammar, usage or pacing, developmental editing for characterization or plot, or a combination of those. In the review will be a fee for the services, the payout of the fee, a schedule, and examples of the line-edits. A manuscript review is $200 and takes a week.

Each manuscript review is different and is based on the manuscript’s length, the amount of work required, the type of editing needed, and the services chosen. The $200 manuscript review fee is paid before the manuscript is reviewed and is subtracted from the final assessment fee. If you’re interested in a manuscript review, you’ll receive an invoice for $200 from Edit 1st via PayPal. After paying the invoice, email Edit 1st the manuscript (ms.) as a word document or as an unlocked PDF for review.

Sample Manuscript Review

Dear Client,

Thanks for letting me see your novel, Dark Tide. Below are my comments, fee, payout and schedule.

I am very straightforward with my comments, so please take them with a grain of salt and understand that they are intended to make you a more knowledgeable writer and Dark Tide more accessible. I am a commercial editor, which means my edits make the book accessible to the widest audience.

Congratulations, you’re a pretty good writer with an obvious passion for this story. What I’m seeing as overall issues are grammar, characterization (lack of character description) syntax (the arrangement of words) and diction (the choice of words). This is part mystery and part thriller, but you’ve slowed the pace by overwriting and over-explaining.

Below are some examples of my line-edits to fix those issues. My edits to your copy are in boldface, cuts are in [brackets] my queries to you are in [boldface brackets].

Overwriting: P. 1. Last paragraph. “David’s friends have stopped visiting, fearing his depression as if it were [a]contagious. [disease]”

The [bracketed] words I’ve cut are not needed.

“David [quickly] shot her a stern look, but said nothing.”

When you “shoot” someone a look it’s usually quick.

You mix your metaphors and your similes are confusing. For instance: “Sticky southern breeze…” A breeze isn’t sticky.

“The frigid early January morning hit Bob.” The morning doesn’t hit.

Realistic dialogue: Contractions in dialogue make it more realistic. For instance, “how’s it going?” instead of “how is it going?” This is how we normally speak. You should also write the way you speak; this is usually more casual, natural and relatable. Contractions in dialogue also make our writing “sound” more like we are speaking, and less like we are writing, which makes for a better narrative flow. For instance “he had” becomes “he’d”, “they are” becomes “they’re”.

Grammar: Sentence fragments. P. 15 middle of the page: “There it is again. That terrible stench.” My edit: “There it is again, that terrible stench.”

The “active” voice vs. the “passive” voice: That same paragraph: “His jaw clenches as he stops himself from going on.” This is the passive voice. “George clenches his jaw to stop his tirade.” This is a more active voice. It also makes what he is stopping himself from doing clearer, and also tells us who is speaking.

The passive voice and overwriting: P. 20 bottom of the page. “George’s head hangs forward in shame and anger.” There is no need to separate George from his head. To correct the passive voice and overwriting I’d edit as: “George hangs his head in shame and anger.”

Page 21. Third para. “’It doesn’t matter. What happens to me doesn’t matter.’ George’s voice is a whisper too, and his fists are clenched.” Same issues. I’d edit as: “’It doesn’t matter what happens to me.’ George whispers, as he clenches his fists.”

Show, don’t tell: Don’t tell me what’s going on show me. For instance: P. 32. Second para. The police station. Describe the interrogation room. Is it dark, or bright, are there windows, is the air stale, is it cramped, and stifling, or dank and cold?

Characterization: There are barely any descriptions of the characters. At the end of the book I still don’t really know what anyone looks like? You can add description with short descriptive text. For instance:

“He took off his wire rimmed glasses and cleaned them on the hem of his trench coat.”

“Her large hazel eyes, were fringed with long lashes.”

“She quickly brushed the thick bangs out of her eyes.”

“He was almost 6 foot 2 in his bare feet.”

“His shoulders were broad and his legs strong and thick.”

“Her shapely hips were encased in a simply cut but tight silk skirt.”

These are simple and concise but also descriptive.

Overall, what needs work here is not your story—you have that all figured out—it’s your writing, specifically: characterization (lack of description), exposition (too much narration) vs. action, pacing (how quickly the story moves) if we cut back on exposition the pacing will improve, also word usage: (incorrect word choices), along with overly complex words, and repeated words or phrases (Dana’s eyes “widen” quite often) and overly formal writing. You are also overwriting, which also stalls the pacing and makes the writing less clear. You can’t have a thrilling thriller if the pace doesn’t move quickly. Cutting back on overwriting and exposition will help this.

Aside from being less “writerly” and more casual in your writing—this might seem contradictory—your writing should be pithy yet descriptive. To do this you have to write economically. This means using fewer words to show more. To detail the action and the scenes economically, edit yourself back, write less, but say more. Also, use either more casual words or more descriptive words, not simply more words, and definitely not more complicated words. There are many instances where you use complicated words when simpler ones would have been more descriptive. This contributes to the word usage issues. An easy way to avoid overwriting and using confusing, overly long words is to write the way we speak. For instance, instead of, “We disembarked from the vehicle”, I’d suggest, “We got out of the car”.

There are some things that you do quite well. For instance: P. 84. Para. 5. “David’s expression melts into something so tender that Laura looks away.” What a lovely, well-written sentence, descriptive and eloquent yet pithy and spare. This is showing and not only telling. I’d like to see more of this type of writing and less overwriting. To that end…

Always, always, always, [remember to] omit needless words. Like I just did by editing my own previous sentence by taking out “remember to.” Omitting needless words makes for stronger sentences. When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a by-product of vigorous writing. This does not mean that the writer must make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, absolutely not, but that every word tell.


There is no Table of Contents here (TOC) and no Chapter Titles. They would be helpful for you and the reader. Will you include an Acknowledgments or Dedications page? If so, send them and I’ll edit and add them to the front matter of the ms.

I usually offer three types of line editing and they are all done on the screen to the digital document. One shows only my edits in boldface. Two shows my boldface edits and my underlined cuts. I’ve shown examples of those in this review. Three is ghost editing—not showing any of my edits.

If you want to hone your craft then ghost editing isn’t for you. It’s easier to work on your writing if you can see the edits because this will show you what your writing tics are and how to correct them. What ghost editing does is it gives you a clean ms. to work with and saves time removing my edits. If you want to fine-tune the new ms. you can do so without being distracted by edits. However, you’d have to be very comfortable with my edits to trust me to ghost edit your work.

I suggest boldface edits only, you’ll still be able to track the edits with your original ms. and you’ll be less likely to introduce errors removing my cuts as well as removing the boldface from the edits. I don’t like Word Tracking and don’t offer it because it’s too intrusive.

Along with the edited ms. will be an editorial letter that will address the story or the telling of the story as well as grammar, usage and format. My queries will have corresponding page numbers and paragraphs for you to use to track them. It would look a lot like this review. In it I query you about things I as the reader/editor am confused about, I also clarify my edits in the editorial letter. I would also point out things for you to watch when you write, for instance, too much exposition, and info dumping or overwriting. It will help you become aware of your writing ticks so you can avoid them in the future. I’ve already pointed some of those out in this review.

My fee for a line-edit on the screen with and editorial letter is: $1,200, minus the $175 manuscript review fee is $1,025.

Schedule: Completed 2 months after signing the contract.


$500 on signing of the contract.

$200 two weeks later.

$200 two weeks after that.

$175 on completion.

I can adjust the payouts if needed.

If we proceed: I would draw up an agreement and send it to you as a PDF file. The agreement outlines the terms and the confidentiality clause protects your work. If it’s fine with you, I’ll sign and scan the signed agreement to you. You’d then countersign it and scan it back to me and send the payment via PayPal or Venmo. If you don’t have access to a scanner you can print two copies and countersign both sending one back to me with the payment, if you’re sending a check. When I finish I will email the editorial letter, and the edited ms.

The first payment is due on signing of the contract. I would invoice you the week the other payments are due. I will email you the week I will finish for the final payment.

At the end of the letter is a list on An Approach to Style from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style; the 4th edition is the most recent. It is an essential guide to writing style for writers, editors and people who work with words. There is a free online version here: It’s invaluable for teaching the elements (and rules) of writing, style, usage, and grammar. It will also help you become aware of your writing ticks.

I hope I’ve covered everything. Please take some time to digest this and then let me know if you have any questions or how you’d like to proceed.

Take care,

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style 4th edition


  1. Place yourself in the background.
  2. Write in a way that comes naturally.
  3. Work from a suitable design.
  4. Write with nouns and verbs.
  5. Revise and rewrite.
  6. Do not overwrite.
  7. Do not overstate.
  8. Avoid the use of qualifiers.
  9. Do not affect a breezy manner.
  10. Use orthodox spelling.
  11. Do not explain too much.
  12. Do not construct awkward adverbs.
  13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.
  14. Avoid fancy words.
  15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good.
  16. Be clear.
  17. Do not inject opinion.
  18. Use figures of speech sparingly.
  19. Do not take shortcuts at the expense of clarity.
  20. Avoid foreign languages.
  21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat.
  22. Use the active voice.
  23. Omit needless words.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Toni Morrison