The Year-long Workshop to Write Your Novel or Memoir

What is a Substantive Edit?

The primary purpose of the Substantive Edit is to investigate the novel or memoir as a story and address the story-telling elements, including the many aspects of the writer’s craft, that should be addressed to refine the manuscript into a publishable book.

Before beginning, your mentor reviews any particular questions and concerns that you would like covered in the Substantive Edit.

Your mentor then reads the manuscript and makes detailed notes.

This analysis covers the following aspects of storytelling, among others:

  • The Role of the Protagonist as a driving force in the narrative
  • The Heftiness of the forces of antagonism. Are the stakes high enough to initiate action?
  • Is the Inciting Incident strong enough?
  • What is the Overarching Dramatic Question and is it answered in the story?
  • How well does the mix of round and flat characters support the story?
  • What plot structure is used and is it effective for the genre?
  • Do the subplots support the themes?
  • Does the story start in media res?
  • How well does the overall structure and scene structure move the story forward?
  • Are there aspects of creative writing that should be addressed?

When your mentor has completed the review, a detailed Substantive Edit is prepared that focuses on the strengths of the manuscript and makes recommendations on what could make the manuscript stronger.

Your mentor then meets you at a mutually agreeable place and time, whether in person or via Skype, to go over this report in detail. This is done in an informal relaxed setting. You are encouraged, of course, to ask questions throughout the process. This meeting usually takes about two hours.

At the conclusion of the meeting a printed copy of the substantive edit is given to you (if the meeting is held in person) or emailed to you after the meeting.

At this point the Substantive Edit is complete and you have the option of continuing on your own with rewrites or joining the Rewrite Segment of A Novel Approach Second Draft. Full details are on this website.

Note: Although we may identify spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, this is not the purpose of a substantive edit. When all revisions have been completed, and before submitting manuscripts to agents or publishers, we recommend all writers seek out the services of a line or copy editor, even those writers who are particularly gifted.

If you would like to know more, please feel free to ask questions via the Contact Form on the website.


Celebrating our 10th Year!

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