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  • August 21, 2013 9:00 am

    Evaluating the Evaluators: A Review of CreateSpace’s Editorial Services

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    CreateSpace is a long-time sponsor of NaNoWriMo. After seeing the incredible ways our Wrimos have used their services, they asked Sara McBride, our Municipal Liaison in Los Angeles to give their editorial services a whirl:

    As a Wrimo, I was seeking inspiration and direction for a 50,540-word novel I wrote last November. I usually work with a team of beta readers that includes fellow writers (and I admit it, my mother) but I wanted a more objective and professional opinion to help me decide if I should continue the project (after all, I have other NaNo-novels to work on!).

    CreateSpace now offers editorial services and editorial evaluations for manuscripts. I sent CreateSpace the first hundred pages and was happy to receive an evaluation that was critical, encouraging and very positive. The detailed response gave me great ideas to explore throughout the rest of the novel.

    The Evaluation Process:

    First, you must upload the book into one of their printing formats, like a 6” x 9” size. This can be technically challenging, but their system will tell you when there are problems and how to fix them. However, the evaluation process cannot move forward until your upload is accepted. 

    Second, you’ll need to provide some background about your novel so you and the evaluator know what you hope to achieve with the evaluation. This is a great general NaNo Prep exercise, as well:

    • Summary of novel
    • Description of main characters
    • Book genre
    • Target audience
    • What inspired you to write the book?
    • Anything else you’d like the evaluator to specifically look for?

    Third, you wait two weeks for your evaluation. 

    What the Summary Evaluation Covers:

    • Title Relevance: does your title fit the contents of the story?
    • Audience: which audience does your story target?
    • Genre label: where in the bookstore is this book to be found?
    • The Introduction: how good is the set-up of the story?
    • The Manuscript Critique: plot holes, too many storylines, unanswered questions?
    • Beginning and End: do they work for the book, or should they go in a different direction? Does it fit the genre?
    • Pacing: Is it even throughout, jumpy, or inconsistent?
    • Dialogue vs. Description: Is there an even amount of each?
    • Cliché vs. Originality: If cliché, does it work for the book?

    Chapter and Character Evaluations:

    The evaluation continues with a summary of each chapter you sent, including what works and what doesn’t. My evaluator included really helpful thoughts about what questions the reader might mentally be asking at the end of each chapter, and if the next chapter addressed those questions. For example:

    For Chapter 1: The evaluator mentioned, “In the back of readers’ minds will be the idea that the family is probably very unhappy with Alexis being the sole heir.” 

    For Chapter 2: The evaluator concludes with, “Good chapter, as it echoes what readers might be thinking about the family and losing its inheritance to Alexis.”

    The characters are evaluated as to whether they are well developed and necessary. If not, how can you better develop them, or who could be cut?  

    This is where your earlier character descriptions can really help the evaluator. If your characters are really clear in your description, but an important background element never really comes through in the novel, or was accidentally cut in a previous draft, the evaluator will notify you. Since I only sent the first 100 pages, but a full character description, the evaluator gave me great ideas for the character arc of my heroine. 

    Inconsistencies and Improvements Evaluation: 

    The evaluator provides suggestions to correct grammar, formatting, inconsistent character names or timeline confusion. This is not meant to be a line-by-line edit of the book. 

    I was reminded of grammar rules I repeatedly ignored, like when to write out numbers, or “every day” vs “everyday.” Another detail I’m grossly guilty of is redundant wording, like “Each stone descending down from …” The evaluator pointed out that the only direction “descending” could indicate is “down.” 

    Writing Style Evaluation:

    The evaluator offers possible solutions to consistent problems.

    A great catch was, “Slurping his soup, he said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about this?’” The evaluator said:

    "When we have a verb ending in –ing, this implies ongoing action. But can he really be slurping his soup at the same time that he speaks? Try it. Instead it should be written: He slurped his soup and then said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about this?’"

    After reading this comment, I found several impossible moments of verb & speech combos; Sneezing and speaking, catching my breath and speaking, and of course, drinking and speaking.

    The Conclusion and Next Steps:

    For my first 100 pages, the evaluator wrote:

    “The success of what has been written is absolutely great and highly suspenseful, with a steamroller plot, great characterization, and description. What is the next step? Finish the manuscript.” 

    Although I cherish my beta readers, my CreateSpace evaluator was enthusiastic, positive, critical, incredibly helpful, and offered a level of detail that is difficult to get from anyone but a professional editor. This is an excellent service with enormous bang for your buck. I absolutely recommend it.

    Photo by Flickr user cellar_door_films.

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