You’d think the obvious answer is duh, or yes. But it’s not that simple.

Unless you’re a bestselling author you need to complete a draft of your story, one that’s as big as, or close to, the novel itself.  Probably around 50,000 words. Yes, it means you are writing the book before you write the book, but the way we roll.

Evaluation by a reputable reader–a fellow writer, an editor, and/or an experienced professional–means you will be investing anywhere from $100 to $800 for a close-eyed scrutiny of what you’ve written so far. You shouldn’t pay more, but you should pay whatever you can. If you can get a free evaluation,wonderful, but the comments of friends and family do not count. They’re biased and feel pressure to say what they think you want to hear or may simply be unhelpful. My husband gave me a great evaluation on my current novel, with lots of opinions and questions neatly sewn into the cuddly blanket of praise. He’s been trained ever since he handed me my first novel with the single comment: “It’s good. Now make it better.”

The draft you hand over should be as muscular and marvellous as you can make it. Ask for more time if you need it: my current novel, Clamour, needed three extra months before it was ready to be read, and my evaluator, bestselling author Barbara Kyle, was kind enough to grant it.

When the evaluation is given, brace yourself. You’re not paying for praise. Try to remember the kind words in among the criticisms, and remember, both of you are trying to make your story as vivid and strong as possible. Ask questions. Disagree. I have found that the reasons I have for doing something may be valid, but are not interpreted the way in which I intended.

Then it’s back to work, and work hard. I should mention that an evaluation is also useful for pointing out that the character you killed off in Chapter 7 is happily pouring tea in Chapter 8!