What to expect from a manuscript assessment

A good story opens doorways to new lives

 

You’ve finished your book. Now you’re all ready for that final polish before publication.

Or are you?

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Wooooah, slow down a minute!

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There are millions of books out there ready to read.

Some will do really well, get loads of 5-star reviews and will climb to the top of the bestseller lists.

Some will do fairly well and will muddle along in the middle lane, get a few 5-star reviews and will stay where they are.

Some will bomb. They’ll be lucky to get any reviews and may even fail to negotiate Amazon’s quality control.

yikes

Where do you want your book to land?

 

While an editor can’t help you climb those bestseller lists, they can give you a better chance of getting there with good reviews and return readers. But don’t think that just because you’ve finished writing your book you’re ready to hand it over to a copyeditor or proofreader yet.

 

A manuscript assessment will give you some big-picture feedback. It’ll let you know if your book is ready for copy editing or if you need to hire a developmental editor first.

 

thermometer

Think of a manuscript assessment as a health check for your writing.

 

When I provide a manuscript assessment, or a manuscript critique as it’s often called, this is what happens:

I read your full manuscript, unless you’ve opted for a mini assessment where I’ll read the first 10,000 words of your book.

I’ll then go on to write up a report for you, which will allow you to see what’s working and what isn’t.

 

Sounds scary?

scared

I won’t lie. It can be. After all, you’re handing over your baby (after what can be a pretty horrendous gestation period) to a complete stranger who’ll tell you whether you have any chance of winning a beautiful baby contest.

When you hit ‘send’ you might need a stiff drink and some distraction therapy. The wait can be agonising.

 

But if you find the right person to carry out your manuscript assessment, when the report comes back you should be fired up and ready to tackle the pruning and polishing.

No editor should be rude, belittling or harsh.

Ever.

True, the report can make for difficult reading sometimes. After all, if something isn’t working for the reader you might not see it at first. We’re all so close to our writing that we often ‘see’ what we want to. That scene you think is brilliant, pithy and exquisitely written might actually fall short of your expectations.

A manuscript assessment will be an honest, unbiased professional opinion, seen from a reader’s point of view.

blank notebook

Generally a report will cover whether the story makes sense, if there are any plot holes and whether the characters are authentic and real or clichés and two-dimensional portrayals. But each editor who offers evaluations will differ in their treatment.

When I carry out a report I’ll usually send you between eight and fifteen pages covering the following:

  • Content
  • Presentation
  • Plot, pace and development
  • Characterisation
  • Target audience
  • Writing – structural strengths and weaknesses, grammar etc.

Some sections will be bigger than others – it all depends on what the assessment throws up. This won’t involve a full developmental edit, but will address similar areas, set out in a written report.  It allows you to see the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript.

Critiques aren’t just for works of fiction either. Non-fiction documents benefit from manuscript assessments too.

stack of documents, books, writing

So why bother at all?

What you can expect to gain from a manuscript assessment is a new view on your writing.

  • You’ll see with fresh eyes what works and what doesn’t and what needs a little more thought.
  • You’ll see your document from the point of view of the reader – one who will tell you the truth. It’s good to let other readers give their opinion, in fact it’s encouraged, but a professional editor will know how to gently tell you what works and what doesn’t.

 

Why not just get your friends to assess it?

  • Family and friends may not feel comfortable telling you if something misses the mark. Your writing will benefit from a professional eye.
  • Beta readers are great, but might not be qualified enough to go into the nitty gritty, although they will give you an invaluable general reader’s point of view.

 

One huge advantage of an assessment is the time and money it might save you.

A full developmental edit is expensive, and you’ll probably need more than one round of editing. By paying for an assessment first you can tackle the issues that are reported and feel more confident that your story works.

Yes, it will give you an extra step and it’ll add more time to your schedule, but isn’t it worth it to save on a bigger step and learn more about your own writing?

The developmental phase may be shortened after a review and rewrite (if it’s needed), your copyediting may need a lighter touch and overall the process may be easier for you.

jar of money

I offer assessments graded by the word count of your document. And for when the pennies are tight I offer a mini critique of the first 10,000 words of your manuscript.

You can check my prices here.

If you’ve got a book you’re about to finish let’s chat and I can book you in.

9 Comments on “What to expect from a manuscript assessment

  1. If I ever write a book, I’m coming to you for a manuscript assessment! And if any of my friends or relative write a book I’m sending them your way, too. 🙂 Thank you for this informative post!

  2. Fab post Sarah, very informative. I’m still at the second draft stage but I’ll keep all this in mind! When you mention beta readers, would you suggest a manuscript assessment before, or after, beta readers? Enjoying your posts – fantastic to hear all this information from the editor’s point of view 🙂 .

    • Lol, don’t worry about it!
      Glad you’re finding it useful. As for whether to use beta readers before or after, it’s probably just down to choice, but I think it would be better to use them first.
      Get their opinion, tweak and change if needed, then send the manuscript for assessment. Once the assessment comes back, work on the points that have been brought up, then you can send it either to new readers or to the same ones a second time if you think it would be beneficial.
      We get so close to our writing its good to get other opinions, and one reader’s opinions may differ from another’s.
      Just remember you probably won’t please everyone, so look at feedback constructively and weigh up your options 😁

      • Ah thanks so much for this! One of the reasons I like going to a writers group is getting feedback from the other members of the group. They aren’t family members or close friends as such so I know their advice is a little more objective! I may ask some of them to have a look at it before I go to the assessment stage. 🙂 x

      • Good idea. I’d love to get to the writers group but Thurso Players takes up a lot of my time. One day I’ll get there x

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