How to Edit Your Manuscript

21st February 2024 7:00pm to 27th March 2024 8:30pm, Online

All writing is rewriting. This short course will develop your ability to reflect critically on your own creative work, to take what you’ve put together and refine it into a story that can reach out and grab readers; give them memorable characters; break their hearts; melt their hearts; make them angry or happy; keep them on the edge of their seats or at the very least, keep them turning pages; in short, taking what you are making them read and turning it into making them feel.

Over six weeks, you'll work with editor and mentor Alex Hammond to develop your self-editing skills across all the key areas: structuring and pacing, tension and dialogue. You'll have the chance to hear from an agent and think about how you want to pitch your book when it's ready to submit.

By the end of the course you can expect to have a solid understanding of self-editing that focuses on the key elements of storytelling, a working synopsis of your manuscript and the first ten pages of a redraft that can be worked on in your own time after the course.

Please note, this course will be best suited to you if you have an early draft of your manuscript ready by the beginning of the course.


Course Benefits

- You'll benefit from a small class size, of no more than 20 people, to ensure everyone's work receives time and attention.

- You'll receive expert advice for an experienced editor and tutor

- Practical sessions will arm you with the tools you need to edit your own manuscript, and ready it for submission

- During workshops you'll receive feedback on your work from your tutor and writing peers

- Course materials will be made available to you, as well as catch-up video recordings

- Discounts on W&A Products including editing services and books

- A copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook, which is full of advice articles, and agent and publisher listings


Course Outline

Week One:

This week we will start with an Introduction to Self Editing, and finding The Story in your story, looking at pitch, genre, market/ audience. The first half of the class will be based on a market research task we’ll ask you to do before starting: where on the shelves in (eg) Waterstones would your book sit? What titles are next to it? We’ll then look at the blurb and opening page of each of them and discuss genre expectations. During the second half of the class we will go through the Five Finger Pitch, what it is and how to use it. You'll be asked to come up with your own, for your own story. The purpose is to help you solidify your understanding of what it is you’re selling.

Week Two:

This week we will be focusing on structure. All editing issues are subordinate to Structure – if that doesn’t work, nothing else you fix will work until it does. It’s therefore far more efficient to check the structure and give it a shake before embarking on any other kind of rewrite. There are two tools we’ll be going through for this – the first will be a discussion of the Three Act Graph (i.e., How Story Works, with a short (brilliant) video from YouTube of Kurt Vonnegut talking about the Shape of Stories. Alex will then introduce you to the 8 Paragraph Synopsis, and everyone will be required to write one. Not one that’s perfect – a sentence for each paragraph that will give a broad sketch of their story structure. You will be finishing a full 8 Paragraph Synopsis for homework.

Week Three:

Pace and Tension. During the first half of the class, Alex will give feedback on your 8 paragraph synopses. We’ll then go through Pace and Tension (because this is always where the work needs to happen – everything is happening Structurally in the right place, but there isn’t enough at Stake), and we’ll be refining the 8 paragraph synopses in this light. This will then bring us into Character, and homework will be for everyone to complete a Character Sheet for every Character named in the 8 Paragraph Synopsis.

Week Four:

Character and Dialogue. We’ll go through the character sheets in the first half of the class, and in the second half of the class we will workshop two pages of dialogue from each student, discussing what’s working and what isn’t, and why. The dialogue has to have at least one character named in the character sheet. After this, you will be refining your first ten pages and synopsis through a workshop process for the final two weeks.

Week Five:

Show, Don’t Tell. We'll discuss how to apply the rules of show, don't tell to your writing and when to bend them, and Alex will share a short guide with you. He'll also offer top tips for making your writing more crisp using this technique. This will be followed by workshopping for the remainder of the session.

Week Six:

During this session you will be doing a final workshop, as well as reflecting on your own strengths as an editor, and areas to keep focusing on. You'll be asked to think about your editorial process following this course, and map out how you will be applying what you have learnt to your work in progress.


Praise for Alex's editing work:

"Alex Hammond's insights and recommendations have helped me to get my book on the path to publishable quality. His advice always navigated that fine line between firm, fair and sensitively put. I can't thank him enough." – Alexander Headley-Brown, W&A Full Manuscript Review client

"Alex is a skilled and empathetic editor and mentor. His knowledge of both the creative writing, and publishing process has been invaluable. He is also skilled at being able to put across complex messages with the power of good examples. It means that with his help I have developed as a writer at the same time as improving my manuscript." – James Pearce

"I asked Alex to give me feedback about my 32,000-word outline of my work-in-progress. Alex provided me with amazingly accurate and pertinent feedback. He clearly read my outline in close detail, and completely understood what I was trying to achieve. His 3,000-word written report to me was just great - full of really meaty plot, character, and tension advice. He also did a mark-up version of my 32,000 outline - which was thankfully blunt and to the point. My face-to-face meeting with him, where we talked about my novel, was even more helpful; he was able to respond in a very constructive way to my many questions and requests for advice. I could not recommend him highly enough. – Tom Irvine, author of Amy's Proof

“Alex is an amazing editor. I have everything I need to revise the manuscript. – Craig Moloney

“After two years work on my first novel I was totally worn out but after receiving Alex Hammond's book report I was full of enthusiasm, motivation and raring to go on what I hope will be the last edit. His comments on what I'd done well and what could be improved were spot on and I'm more than happy to recommend him.” – Kim Brooke

Speaker profiles
Alex Hammond

I've worked in publishing for most of my professional life, and there is nothing I like more than talking to an author about their book, diving into the pages, and helping them identify any issues that might be holding their story back.

I hold a BA (Hons) in American Literature with Creative Writing from UEA, an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Lancaster, and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Southampton. After my MA, I worked at Rogers, Coleridge & White literary agency, working with authors such as Zadie Smith, Philip Hensher, Nick Hornby, Sandi Toksvig and Joe Dunthorne.

I joined Cornerstones Literary Consultancy in 2014, managing editors, assessing new author enquiries, and scouting for agents. I went freelance in 2017, and my clients include Ipsita Deb (Winner of the Arvon Mushens Prize 2021) and Ravindra Rathee (True To Their Salt, Amberley Publishing, 2022). I am an editor and mentor with Bloomsbury's Writers' & Artists' Author Services. I also work directly with authors at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Conferences, and at A Chapter Away writers’ retreats.

I work with literary fiction, commercial fiction across a range of genres, and narrative non-fiction.

Booking & payment

The course fee of £350 (inc. VAT) is payable in full online. Please note that payment instalment plans are available for all W&A events, writing courses and editing services. Contact W&A Admin on so that we can find a payment schedule that works for you.

If this event is Sold Out, please look out for other writing courses by visiting our Events homepage.

This is a live online course which will be presented using video conferencing software. Joining instructions and full guidance will be provided by the W&A Team a week before the event start-date. All timings for this event are as per UK time.

To view our event refund and cancellation policy, please click here.

Accessible to All

It’s of real importance to Writers & Artists that our events and courses remain accessible to all.

  • Writers & Artists has made one bursary place available for this writing course as part of our accessibility scheme. Please visit our bursaries page for further information about how to apply. Please note, this bursary has now been allocated.
  • At the author’s discretion, event materials will be made available to attendees after the course.
  • A link to a recording of the course will be circulated each week. This will be made available to course attendees only, and for a time-limited period.
  • This course will include written text and visuals. Please contact us in advance so that we can make arrangements to be sure all documents appear in a format that works for you.
  • If you’d like to attend but have any questions or concerns regarding accessibility, then please email


United Kingdom

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