Writers On Writing / Linda Funnell on seeing potential in a manuscript


We chatted to experienced editor and publisher Linda Funnell, ahead of her course Online Feedback: Manuscript Development, about what she looks for in a great manuscript, what makes a good relationship between a writer and their editor, and what she’s reading at the moment.


In your experience as a publisher, what do you look for in a great manuscript? How do you know when a manuscript has promise?

I always feel a manuscript has potential when I forget it’s a manuscript and just keep turning the pages. It’s wonderful to find something that simply compels you to read on.

What creates that compulsion might be a particular character, or the narrative voice, or the author’s approach to their subject, or the hooks they have planted to keep the reader intrigued – or any of these in combination.

But the key thing common to great manuscripts is that they are both well-written and have something to say. It’s not either/or, you have to have both.

What makes a good relationship between an editor and a writer?

Trust and mutual respect. An editor has to be the most sympathetic and the most critical reader of a manuscript – critical in the sense of bringing a critical eye to proceedings, not criticising for criticising’s sake. An important part of the editor’s job is to understand what the author is trying to achieve in their manuscript, and to identify gaps between that intention and what is on the page.

Sometimes an editor asking the right question can turn a light on for an author as to what needs to be done.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction as I’m one of the judges for the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize, which encompasses everything from literary fiction to historical fantasy.  But I read all kinds of fiction, not just historical fiction. A great crime novel can grip me as much as a literary novel or a family saga – or indeed a biography or a memoir. Over the past few months I’ve been selecting extracts from recent Australian books for the Newtown Review of Books, so if you’d like to check out some of the things I’ve been reading, you can go to newtownreviewofbooks.com.au/category/extracts/

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Linda Funnell from Online Feedback: Manuscript Development Writing NSW

Linda Funnell has extensive experience as an editor and publisher and has taught courses in publishing, editing and writing for UTS, the ASA and Writing NSW. For 10 years Linda was a publisher with HarperCollins. Prior to that she was Fiction Publisher at Random House, and prior to that, Managing Editor at Pan Macmillan. Currently she is a freelance editor and publishing consultant, and has edited works by Diane Armstrong, Louis Nowra and Karen Brooks, among others. In March 2012 she and Jean Bedford founded the free online book review the Newtown Review of Books, which you can find at newtownreviewofbooks.com.au.

Join Linda for her course, Online Feedback: Manuscript Development, starting Monday 24 August. Enrol now>>

Online Feedback_ Manuscript Development Linda Funnell Writing NSW

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