The Year-long Workshop to Write Your Novel or Memoir

Part 1: Obtain a Substantive Edit

Once you have registered for A Novel Approach Second Draft, email a WORD copy of your manuscript and include a list of any questions that you want answered in the Substantive Edit. Be as specific as possible about which aspects of your manuscript excite you the most and where you are feeling reticent.

The primary purpose of the Substantive Edit is to investigate the novel or memoir as a story and address the story-telling elements. This includes aspects of the writer’s craft that may also need to be addresseed to refine the manuscript into a publishable book.

Before beginning, your mentor would be happy to discuss any particular questions and concerns that you have raised.

Our substantive edits cover the following aspects of storytelling:

  • 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 characters’ actions?
  • Is the Inciting Incident strong enough?
  • How effective is the Point of View voice?
  • What role do setting and atmosphere play in the narrative?
  • What are the Overarching Dramatic Questions your manuscript asks and are they answered?
  • 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?
  • Does the story start in the right place?
  • Is the dialogue realistic while also offering opportunities for subtext?
  • Is the voice and dialogue consistent in each character?
  • How well does the overall structure and scene structure move the story forward?
  • Are there aspects of creative writing that should be addressed?
  • Are there any questions that have arisen specific to this manuscript?

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

We offer two types of Substantive Edit.
A detailed report covers the critically important aspects of successful story-telling as listed on this page. This comprehensive approach is designed to educate new and emerging writers in the essential building blocks of novels and memoirs. The report, including rewrite recommendations, is emailed to you and discussed in a supportive, informative 90 minute online zoom or telephone chat format. (your choice)
This version is designed for authors who are comfortable in the writer’s craft and do not need detailed reporting. If your manuscript is ready, but you would like a critical eye focussed on your manuscript before submitting to agents and publishers, this is the best option. Instead of a detailed report, we prepare a one page Hi-Lo Summary. The report is emailed to you and discussed in a one hour online zoom or telephone chat format. (your choice)
At the conclusion of the meeting a Word copy is emailed to you. At this point the Substantive Edit is complete.
We recommend that you let the edit percolate for a few weeks while you decide which aspects to include in your rewrite. Once you have decided what to include in any rewrite, we would be thrilled to hear from you. Of course you may work through this process on your own, or let us know when you are ready and sign up for Part TWO of the process outlined on the next page, and we will work with you every step of the way.

A NOTE ABOUT MANUSCRIPT LENGTH: The fees listed are for manuscripts of 90,000 words or less. If your manuscript is larger than this, an additional cost of .015 cents/word is applicable.
(Example: for a manuscript of 100,000 words the additional cost would be 10,000 x .015 = $150 + HST)
We will contact you about the methods available to pay the additional amount should this be necessary.

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

Sue Reynolds and James Dewar are both certified in and affiliates of the AWA (Amherst Writers & Artists) Method of leading workshops.

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