These clients have kindly allowed us to share samples of their reports. You’ll find below excerpts of our reports, as well as a screenshot of the annotated manuscript for a Full Book Editing Package and for a Submission Package.
Our reports focus first on a book’s strengths, so that you know what is working, and then on a book’s issues, so that you know what isn’t working and how to fix it. Note that we’ve redacted the reports below to protect the author’s anonymity.
The annotated manuscript is where you can find examples that highlight the issues the report deals with, as well as many low-level suggestions.
Full Book Editing Package Sample
Annotated Manuscript Screenshot
Point of view
The novel has a roaming point of view. The reader is constantly wrenched from a character and taken to another, sometimes within the same sentence. This is the hardest point of view style to pull off.
Yours isn’t a standard omniscient narrator. That is usually more distant. If they relate characters’ thoughts, omniscient point-of-views still tend to stick to a character for an extended period before switching. You often switch from one character’s thought to another and back again within the one paragraph.
Much of modern fiction tends to be written in close third, and the rest in first.
Close third is rather easy: since everything is seen through one character’s head, you know to restrict yourself to what your point of view character sees, feels, and thinks.
First is similar, but a tad harder since every word conveys something of your main character. Even a one-line setting description tells the reader what the narrator/character experiences.
To see what I mean about point-of-view in your novel, take the scene that starts on p.53, print it out, and for each sentence, mark out whose PoV it’s told from. Look for changes not only between paragraphs, but within paragraphs especially when we’re moving from the narrator/author to a character and back. Imagine a video game that’s changing its point of view. We’re diving into someone’s head and out and into someone else’s head and out and back into that person’s head, and so on. This won’t be easy for your reader: expect much confusion.
To this, I also want to add a word about the narrator’s interventions in the book. The narrator often intervenes by making comments about social mores, or by highlighting oddities in your character’s behavior. In your book, I don’t see a difference between narrator and author, which could have come about, say, had you decided to write your book with a peculiar voice. The narrator’s interventions are clearly authorial. The author interrupts the story to tell us to look at something.
For example on p. 116, you explain that “it wasn’t a responsibility thing”, and even though this comment is meant to be in R’s voice, readers will know that R wouldn’t think this way. He’s too much a part of the system to express this clearly the difference between the company view and society’s view. We’re clearly getting an authorial comment, and whereas we were hoping to discover the source of humor all by ourselves, we now have an authority telling us what we should think.
Way to kill the fun. These authorial interventions feel patronizing. You don’t need them. If you stick to a third, you’d do well to eliminate every single one.
Point of view issues leap off the page. It might take someone fifty pages before they decide that your characters are too flat for their liking, but it’ll only take them five before they ditch your book because of the wrong PoV choices.
Even if you understand what I’m writing, it’ll take you time before you master this issue. It should certainly trigger a complete rewrite.
Let me suggest some mutually exclusive solutions:
- You write in close third. You stick to a character for a whole scene. So if you’re with R, we don’t get M’s thoughts. You also limit your number of PoV characters as much as possible. Note that for each PoV character, the writing will need to change, even if only a little. M’s thought patterns won’t be E’s, for example, and the writing needs to reflect this. This solution allows you to keep the plot almost as is, but it does put a great emphasis on your characterization. To write in a character’s PoV means really understanding that character.
- You write in one and only one close-third. This is the easiest to pull off, but it does mean you’ll have to change the plot.
- You stay in distant third, but you get rid of the narrator’s opinions. There are enough voices as it is. When in distant third, you almost never go inside someone else’s head, and if you do, you don’t go into someone else’s head for a good long while. Emotions come through your characters’ actions. I should point out that intensity will be harder to convey and this style generally feels dated.
- You choose to write in a distant first person, perhaps from E’s PoV, which allows you to poke fun at your narrator, and also gives you a license for social commentary (back in my days…), but it means you can’t go inside your other characters’ heads.
- You choose to write in a close first person, most probably in the voice of one of the main six characters. The main difference with option four is that your point-of-view is one of your major characters. Think of How I Met Your Mother: in option four, the narrator is Future Ted, while in option five, it’s one of your current characters: perhaps Present Ted. The main difference with option number two is that you’ll now need to know your character inside and out.
If it were my novel, I’d go for the first option, and I’d limit myself to one point of view per couple. But that’s just my preference. You could pull off any of the above. It’ll just take work.
The key is that you choose with your reader in mind and that you hold yourself to whatever rules you choose.
Submission Package Sample
Annotated Mansucript Screenshot
Synopses are strange beasts. Some agents never open them, while others use them to screen out story-less books. Agents who read them will want them to be well written and compelling. Faced with this uncertainty, they have to be taken for the selling document they might end up being.
In reading yours, I’m looking for two things. First, is it well written and compelling? Second, in light of the first 10,000 words, what can I say about the greater arc of your story?
First, on its intrinsic value.
The setting paragraph is a good idea. Agents will know little of B. It gives them a sense of place and period.
The story paragraphs themselves tell the story clearly, and you don’t shy away from revealing the ending.
The first paragraph especially has a clear sense of purpose: the affair is driving A. This is important. After all, purpose in story development is what makes a story compelling. See the annotated synopsis for more comments on this point.
Second on the story arc.
The synopsis announces a character based novel. A carries the whole novel, and his development is the story. The affair in the first third, and the issue of marrying his cousin in the last third, seem particularly apt at creating a good story.
The synopsis is actually the most polished document of your submission package.
Can you introduce more of a sense of causality? We need to know that the events stem from what’s happened before in the story, especially when they concern our main characters. Hence when A’s brother goes to D to get a job, we need a sense of why the younger rather than the older brother is taking on this duty. Perhaps, it’s because the brother is too heart-broken to do anything, or instead because his affair is distancing him from his family. A few words would greatly improve your synopsis.
The second issue is the time jump in the story, during which the main character undergoes a major change: he’s broken off the affair, and settled on a lesser career. This implies that much of your character’s development has happened off-stage. That is, we don’t get to see the important parts of the story.
This is a brave choice, which means you’ll have to skilfully imply much of what’s happened beforehand without stopping the flow of your narrative with backstory.