416-435-7372 or 905-985-8389 info@anovelapproach.net

“The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem.”
― Pat Schneider (the 4th precept of the AWA Method)

Substantive Edits

The primary purpose of the Substantive Edit is to investigate a novel or memoir as a story and address the story-telling elements.

This includes any aspects of the writer’s craft that should be addressed in order to rewrite a manuscript into a publishable book.

Our METICULOUS SUBSTANTIVE EDIT covers 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?

Whether you have joined A Novel Approach Second Draft or you need a substantive edit, please email a WORD copy of your manuscript and include a list of any questions you would like us to answer 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.

We would be happy to talk over your concerns in a telephone or zoom room chat before starting.

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.

A NOTE ABOUT MANUSCRIPT LENGTH: The fees listed are for manuscripts up to 80,000 words in length. 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 20,000 x .015 = $300 + HST) We will contact you about the methods available to pay the additional amount should this be necessary.

We offer two types of Substantive Edits:


This detailed report covers the critically important aspects of successful story-telling as outlined above. This comprehensive approach is designed to educate new and emerging writers in the essential building blocks of novels or memoirs. We are available to meet in person if you live within a reasonable driving distance. Otherwise, our findings, including rewrite recommendations, are emailed in advance, and discussed with you in detail in a supportive, informative 90 minute online zoom or telephone chat format. (your choice)

This version is designed for authors who are versed in the writer’s craft and do not need detailed reporting.

If your manuscript is ready, but you would like it reviewed before submitting to agents and publishers, this is a more economical and speedier option.

After a careful read of your manuscript, we prepare a one page ATTENTIVE SUMMARY that outlines the strengths and identifies any aspects that should be addressed. The report is emailed to you and discussed in a one hour online zoom or telephone chat format. (your choice)

If you choose to continue with STEP 2 of our SECOND DRAFT process (PLAN YOUR REWRITE and FINISH IT), our recommendations will guide your rewrite and improve your chances of finding an agent and publisher.


Although we may identify blatant 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 will strongly recommend that you seek out the services of a line or copy editor if we feel it is needed.