10 Points to Rate Nonfiction

How well does your manuscript score?IMG_7175 2to3

by Andy Scheer

Awhile back, Jerry B. Jenkins asked if he could refer people in his writers guild to me for critiques. I agreed.

But last week when someone asked, I realized I was only half-prepared. While I had a time-tested grid to assess novels, I didn’t have one for nonfiction.

So I searched my files from judging national contests and teaching at conferences. I checked with colleagues. I even asked Google. At best I got partial answers. Nothing like my ten-point grid for fiction.

So I pieced together those partial answers, added my own preferences, and spent a day refining the results.

Please consider this a working document. I’m open to delete, combine, and add criteria. Meanwhile, perhaps you’ll find it useful in judging your own work.

Assess on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 = Ready for publication and 1 = Needs extensive revision. 5 = Average, off to a good start.1379662057_checklist

____ 1. Titles/Subtitles. Does the manuscript name attract attention, appeal to target readers, and suggest its scope and significance? Do chapter titles and subtitles inform and engage readers?

____ 2. Distinctiveness/Targeting. Does the presentation stand out from others in the marketplace? Does the presentation target a clearly identified audience? Is the depth of the discussion appropriate for intended readers?

____ 3. Opening. Does the first chapter immediately hook readers? Does this chapter set a consistent, engaging tone? Does the chapter establish the discussion’s scope and significance

____ 4. Approach. Does the style of presentation mesh with the audience, topic, promised benefits, and author qualifications? Is the approach engaging and memorable?

____ 5. Scripture Use. Are Bible verses used consistently, appropriately, and in context? Is Scripture use integral to the presentation, not simply added on?

____ 6. Examples. Does the author show rather than tell? Is the author personally transparent? Are the points illustrated with anecdotes and real-life vignettes?

____ 7. Expectations. Does the content and its development deliver what’s promised by the title/subtitle, contents page, and opening chapter?

____ 8. Author Qualifications. Does the author demonstrate sufficient experience with the topic to be considered highly knowledgeable? Does the writing show evidence of thorough research?

____ 9. Writing Quality. Does the author engage readers with strong, tight writing? Is the tone and style consistent? Do sentence structures vary in pleasing ways? Did the author take care to choose the right words? Is there effective use of transitions and subtitles?

____ 10. Mechanics. Does the author have a command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling? Is standard manuscript format used? Is the material presented professionally?

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About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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