The First Editor Evaluation

by Kim Pearson on August 14, 2012

It is an editor’s job to point out what does not work and where the problems are in a manuscript. We hunt for the bad stuff, so naturally we can sound negative and discouraging even though we might be positive, kind-hearted people. (I certainly try to be.) The trick for the editor is to point out the good stuff too, and the trick for the writer is to hold on to their vision for the book in the face of the realization that it’s not yet perfect. (Actually nothing is ever perfect, not even carefully edited manuscripts.)

It usually takes me about one to two weeks to finish a first read-through of a manuscript and write an overall evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. I make general suggestions and some specific suggestions about how I want to fix the weaknesses and highlight the strengths.

Susan’s manuscript has great strengths. Her stories are full of heart and humor, and the theme of her book – that the simple acts of gathering, preparing, and eating food with others builds community – is a much-needed reminder to all of us to slow down and taste the flavors of life. This theme successfully runs through all the chapters, educating, entertaining, and inspiring the readers. It is a fun book to read.

It will be even more fun to read when the weaknesses in the manuscript are gone. I suggested that we move a few chapters around, especially in the beginning so the reader feels grounded in the basic storyline and does not get confused later. I suggested she add an ending chapter so the book comes to a satisfying close. I suggested that some of her stories are too wordy and need to be condensed and tightened. I suggested that the actors in her stories be given more dialogue and action, so we the readers can see/hear/touch (maybe even smell) them as they interact with Susan and each other. Finally, I of course suggested that we fix all the basic writing errors such as run-on sentences, tense inconsistencies, vague word choices, passive voice instead of active voice, and all those fun mistakes that all writers make. In the eval I pointed out where these and other errors occurred.

I sent off my evaluation to Susan a few days ago. If Susan agrees with my suggestions and inserts any additional content needed, then I will do the second round of editing, in which I will perform all the suggestions and fixes. I am looking forward to this, because I really love Susan’s stories and I expect to have fun working on them.

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