How Long Does a Full Manuscript Critique Take?

I recently got the question, “How long does a full manuscript critique take?” And I figured I’d answer it here because a lot of people wonder about this.

The time it takes to critique a manuscript depends on a couple of factors, namely writing quality and length.

Writing Quality

The closer the manuscript is to being ready for publication, the faster the critique goes.

Many factors contribute to the quality of the writing. Of course, there’s the artistry questions—is the writing interesting, well-thought out, and creative? However, “good writing” for a full-length book is about much more than your ability to turn a phrase.

The first question: “Is the manuscript well-organized? We need to know, are the ideas in the manuscript laid out in a logical flow that’s easy to follow? Or is it all over the place?

The harder it is to follow the author’s logic, the longer it’s going to take the editor to get through the manuscript. The editor will have to start their critique at the 30,000-foot view developmental stage rather than the on-the-ground nitty-gritty line-by-line stage. Put another way: if your editor has to spend a lot of time just trying to figure out what your book’s message is, it will take a lot longer than if they only need to see how well you delivered it.

Once we’ve addressed the manuscript’s level of organization, we look at the other factor in writing quality: how well are you expressing your ideas? If you convey ideas clearly, the critique will go faster. On the other hand, if your sentences are nonsensical, or if you go off-topic, down a lot of rabbit trails, the editor is going to spend a lot of time working to figure out what you were trying to say, and whether what you said is relevant.

Length

The other factor that determines how long it takes to critique a full manuscript is word count. Obviously, a 90,000-word manuscript takes a lot longer to critique than a 20,000-word manuscript.

With all this being said, an editor doing a thorough manuscript critique may be able to complete anywhere from 6 (double-spaced) pages an hour to 15 pages per hour. Something to keep in mind if you’re paying by the hour. A double-spaced page will contain about 300 words. Thus, to answer the question: A thorough critique of an average-length manuscript of 60,000 words will take anywhere from 12 to 30 hours.

Most editors charge by the word, which helps you keep a ceiling on costs. If you want the critique to go faster, though, there are some things you can do before you send it that will speed things up.

How to Make a Manuscript Critique Go Faster

First, make a clear and detailed outline before you start. Make sure you’ve laid out your ideas in a logical flow and order.

Second, once you’ve completed your manuscript read it out loud to yourself. Yes, I mean the full manuscript. Every single word. And really listen to yourself. Listen for any sentences that don’t make sense, or only deliver half the point. Reading aloud helps because when you read a line of text you wrote, you know what you meant, so the mind tends to fill in the blanks. But when you read it out loud, you can hear if you’ve left something out. By the way, I recommend you also do this as you write.

The Bottom Line is This:

A manuscript critique goes fastest when you start with a clear and detailed outline and edit yourself first.

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