The RTC Manuscript Analysis: Your Compass through the Story Forest

By: Mary Anna Rodabaugh in Book Writing
on May 13th, 2019

When you complete a draft of your manuscript, it is completely normal to want to pop open a bottle of champagne, throw up, and cry—all at the same time. Welcome to the wonderful roller-coaster world of book writing. With a heart full of emotions, you may be wondering, “What’s the next step?” Do you send your book to your mom or your best friend for a quick read? Do you let it sit for a moment and come back to it? Or do you seek out an impartial third party to read your work and share the ways you can elevate that work to brilliance? Quite possibly, you’ll do all three.

However, getting a professional to look over your manuscript will give you the most bang for your buck. Fresh eyes on the manuscript offer new insights on your work. Also, those eyes belong to a professional who has experience analyzing and editing books. That experience is quite valuable; it can give you insights above and beyond what you and your mother or best friend can bring to the table.

Round Table Companies offers a comprehensive manuscript analysis. A manuscript analysis includes feedback that documents the beautiful flowing pieces of your manuscript and the clunky awkward chunks that need to be massaged. Here are a few things you can expect to get insights about:

  • Narrative and story structure: As an author, you are often so deep in the forest of a story that it can be hard to see the individual trees. Your RTC editor will gather a bird’s-eye view of your entire story structure and point out the trees that need more branches and the ones you can cut down. Your editor will determine points where he or she feels lost while highlighting those moments of picture-perfect clarity. Your editor will also suggest the path a reader can take through your book. Some story structures are chronological. Others may be topical. While you’re in that forest, all of your trees may look alike, but it might turns out that a few are quite different, in which case, they should be grouped together for consistency. Your editor will determine the cohesiveness of your entire forest and make suggestions along the way to create a beautiful whole.
  • Common grammar/spelling mistakes: Your editor will identify common grammar and spelling mistakes you have made. Your editor will also pinpoint overuse of phrases or words and provide alternatives to consider. If you’re “guilty” of misplaced modifiers or unintentional passive voice, fear not. Your MSA editor will catch those too and highlight examples straight from your text.
  • Pacing:Writing is an exciting adventure, and, like that roller-coaster mentioned above, writing can go really, really fast as your excitement rings through each line! You just can’t wait to get to the juicy reveal or emotional narrative. Then, maybe a few paragraphs later, you find yourself stuck. You take up several pages describing something that would work with a shorter summary. Or maybe your pacing trouble comes down to sentence length. Sentence variation is essential for engaging manuscripts. You’ll want to find a balance between quick, punchy lines and long, drawn-out compound sentences. An imbalance is normal, even expected, in first drafts. However, big pacing changes can confuse your reader and prevent your writing from flowing free and easy. Your editor will take a look at the pacing of your manuscript and identify areas where it could speed up or slow down.
  • Emotion: You have a pretty good idea about how your manuscript makes you feel. But how does your story make others feel? What parts of your book bring tears to readers’ eyes or make them belly laugh? Which anecdote makes readers fist pump in the air? Your editor can be a great emotional gauge and provide valuable insight on the feelings your manuscript stirs up in others.
  • Areas that spark interest and curiosity: Almost always, your editor will find parts of your story that provoke a sense of intrigue and a thirst to know more. Many times, these are areas that you may not have considered important. “That science fair when I came in second place? Who really wants to know more about that?” Well, if you nailed the winning presentation in adulthood and won the lead on a big project, readers might want to know what it felt like to come in second place as a kid and how that motivated you to work harder throughout your life. By asking you to take a look at stories and sections that need more love, editors help you write the story you were meant to write.
  • Areas that cause confusion: No one knows your story as well as you. This is a beautiful thing. But remember that your readers don’t know your narrative and need to be gently guided. Sometimes when you think you’ve explained something, you have not done so in a way your readers can digest. Maybe you forgot to establish a sense of time and place because you know it so intimately. Maybe you refer to a new character later in your manuscript but forgot to introduce them earlier. Maybe you use a lot of technical jargon related to your industry, but your book is for people outside of your industry. If these types of befuddling basics confuse your editor, they will probably confuse most readers. Your manuscript analysis points them out so you can fix them.

Once your MSA is completed, you will get several days to read though it so the glorious feedback can sink in. Then you will have a call with your MSA editor so you can ask him or her any questions you may have. Pick their brain, ask for advice, make suggestions, and even debate some of the ideas from the MSA you feel strongly about. Get as much out of the session as possible so you can take those suggestions and polish off that draft. A manuscript analysis is a lesson plan, a game-day playbook, and perhaps the map you never knew you needed. It serves as a compass to direct you to a final version of your book.

With a clearer path ahead, open another bottle of champagne. No throwing up—and happy tears only.

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