Manuscript appraisal & copy editing

Manuscript appraisal and copy editing are two essential steps in your novel’s  journey to publication.

If you haven’t had any feedback on your novel as a whole, a manuscript appraisal is the place to start. It’s important to look at the big picture before you deep dive into detail with a copy edit. It will result in a better book and can save you money in the long run.

Here’s a rundown of what they both involve, including some manuscript appraisal FAQs.

[jump to copy editing]



Manuscript appraisal – the big picture

A manuscript appraisal looks at your novel as a whole, including structure, story arc and character development.

A manuscript appraisal will:

  • show you where the strengths are and what’s not hitting the mark
  • give you confidence that you are going in the right direction
  • help you work out what to focus on next.

Most editors offer manuscript appraisals as a written report, but I offer them as a workshop over Zoom, which is recorded so you can go back over it as many times as you like. A workshop has three advantages over a written report:

  1. We can discuss what you want to achieve and what you’ve already tried, which allows me to offer advice that’s specific to your skills and experience
  2. We can workshop issues and ideas and possibly come up with solutions together (two heads are better than one)
  3. It costs less than a written appraisal (hooray!)

Mini or maxi

You can choose from two options:

• a mini appraisal for the first 15K words of your novel

• a maxi appraisal for your complete manuscript.

A mini appraisal can be really helpful if you:

  • want to know if you are on the right track
  • need to reboot your confidence in your book
  • have an endless draft that you can’t rein in (yes I can help you with that even when I only read 15K words)
  • are interested in ongoing coaching – this can be the first step

A maxi appraisal is great for when you’ve written and revised as far as you can go, and are ready for some feedback.

Manuscript appraisal FAQs

What does the appraisal workshop cover?

As with a written appraisal, the workshop looks at all the building blocks of your book. This includes:

  • structure and story arc
  • character development
  • scene and setting
  • language
  • rhythm, pace and tension
  • continuity.

When is the right time to get a manuscript appraisal?

An appraisal can be helpful with either a finished draft or a work in progress.

  • For a finished draft it will pick up any areas that need to be tightened or developed before the fine tuning of copy editing.
  • For a work in progress it can pin-point opportunities for development, give you reassurance you are on the right track, or help you get back on track if you’ve wandered off course.

If you’ve not had your manuscript read by someone who is able to give constructive feedback, such as a fellow writer or a beta reader, I highly recommend you start your editing journey with an appraisal.

How much does it cost?

  • mini appraisal (first 15K words) $450
  • maxi appraisal (full manuscript) from $1400 for 80K words

What happens after the appraisal?

The aim of the appraisal is that you have enough feedback to get to final draft, ready for copy editing.

If you need further support to get to final draft, we can set up a writing coaching plan to help you through the next development phase.

Is a manuscript appraisal your next step towards being published? Let’s chat to find out.

Book a discovery call

…or if you are feeling shy, drop me a line.

Get in touch




Copy editing – the detail

You probably know every line of your book inside out. You probably know it so well you can’t really feel its power anymore, or see where it can be tightened. This is where copy editing comes in.

Copy editing is the final polish. It focuses on your writing line by line, making sure the language, rhythm and flow are serving the story and the characters as best they can.

Here’s what one of my copy editing clients had to say about the process:

It’s precious for a writer to see the editor engage with your manuscript in such depth, and in such a supportive way. It builds a relationship of trust.
I like how your comments range from word choice and syntax tonarrative technique and character development.

Gilbert Van Hoeydonck

Your manuscript needs to be in the best shape it can be structurally before you send it for copy editing, otherwise you could be wasting your money.

If you’re not sure if your manuscript is ready for a copy edit, I’ve created a nifty flowchart to help you work it out  [text version here.] It’s not a definitive process, but it gives you the general idea.

Not ready? Head on back up to manuscript appraisal.

If you are ready for a copy edit, get in touch for a free, no-obligation sample edit. This will help you work out if I’m the right editor for you. (And it helps me work out how much it will cost.)

Get a free sample edit



Nifty flowchart text version

(It’s abridged I’m afraid, can’t show all the cross connections, but it will give you the idea.)

Opening question: Is it hot off the keyboard?

Questions and answers on left hand side of the chart:

No it’s not hot off the keyboard

  1. Have you read it through top-to-toe without fiddling?


  1. Are you happy with the story arc and character development?


  1. Have you worked through line by line to refine language?


  1. Have you sent it to a beta reader (or readers) or an editor for appraisal?


  1. Have you worked in the feedback from the appraisal?


  1. Have you worked through line-by-line again to refine the language?


  1. Congratulations. Your manuscript is ready to send to a copy editor


Questions and answers on the right hand side of the chart:

Yes it’s hot off the keyboard

Not ready. The first thing you need to do is read through without fiddling (circle or highlight issues, make margin notes, but don’t try to fix because you’ll end up going down rabbit holes).


A. Make a list of what needs doing.

TIP: A chapter outline can help you see the story (and any gaps).

Character studies can help with character development.


B. Work through the list.


C. Read through again. Are you happy with the story arc and character development?

If yes go to step 3 above

If no work through steps ABC again until you get yes for an answer, then continue with steps 3 to 6.

[back to copy editing]


Other services

Lu Sexton

Hello, I’m Lu Sexton. I’m an editor and writing coach. I’ve been working with writers like you since 2009 and I love it. My mission is to help you bring out the best in your writing and get you one step closer to being published.

I know that sending work to an editor can feel a bit daunting, but rest assured, I’m here to help, not to ‘correct’. Just like you, I want your readers to have the best experience they can, which is what editing is all about.


I feel I can’t praise Lu highly enough. I’d come to a standstill with my writing process and contacted Lu for a dip-your-toe mini-appraisal. After reading only a few chapters of my work it was obvious to me that Lu ‘got it’. She had a true sense of my characters and which direction I wanted to/should take them in. She made a few suggestions that I would never have thought of myself but feel will benefit my work immensely. I felt comfortable and at ease with her from the beginning and hope to work with her again soon. Thanks for everything, Lu xx

P M Edwards

Lu did a manuscript appraisal of my novel. She was great to work with. She gave me some terrific ideas to develop the story. Her insight made a significantly positive impact on the direction I’ve taken it in.

Sarah Nicholson

Creative writer

Lu has been a pleasure to work with. Her manuscript assessment, one-on-one writing workshops and copy edits have been invaluable in the development of my first novel. Lu has a lot of knowledge and attention to detail which, along with her enthusiasm, really helped me take my manuscript to the next level.

I’d strongly recommend Lu to any writers – she can really help you develop a solid finished product.

Nichola Scurry

Author of 'With the Music'

Thanks Lu for doing such a great job copyediting my novel. All the feedback, from general notes to specific comments and changes, made sense to me and have improved the book in so many ways. I hope to work with you again some time.

Cover of 'Red Reflection'

Phil MacNamara

Author of 'Red Reflections'

I had the pleasure of working with Lu as my editor for a piece I had selected for a Visible Ink anthology in 2012.

From the outset, Lu established a great line of communication between us, and I found her to be an excellent editor in her ability to be supportive and constructive as well as critical. Her initial feedback and comments were fantastic, and I felt she really engaged with the story and the characters.

She has a keen eye, and a great ear for rhythm and cadence; some of her editorial suggestions very much enhanced the voice of the protagonist in my piece by keeping it consistent. She expressed her thoughts and opinions about editorial changes in a very constructive way, and has the ability to be practical, clear and concise about her reasoning for suggested changes.

I found Lu to be respectful in regard to my writing style, and her editorial work really productive. She was open and approachable, and I felt very happy with the final edit we ended up sending to print.

I wouldn’t hesitate to work with her again on future projects.

Else Fitzgerald