We hear that more than anything.
Why’s it going to be a bestseller? Because it’s such a brilliant idea? Because it’s so beautifully written? Because you’re going to will it to be so?
You know what? You’re not the only one to think these things.
And if it were as easy as all this, publishers – with all their resources – would release nothing but bestseller after bestseller.
They don’t, because the reality is lots of brilliant stories and beautifully-written books disappear into obscurity. Others never see publication. There’s no certified predictor as to what makes a bestseller. And it’s folly to think that the potential behind your concept is going to win over an audience. The best you can do – and the formula that publishers follow – is to give your book the very best chance of succeeding by making it the best that it can be.
One of the means to achieve this – and a much more inexpensive alternative to a structural edit – is a manuscript assessment.
The simplest way to think of a manuscript assessment is that it’s a comprehensive book report of your manuscript.
You’ll get a breakdown that looks at the following things:
- Structure: does your manuscript evolve logically? Even if it has some innovative structure – e.g. flipping between timelines, or rotating through an assortment of characters – is it cohesive? Are there areas it needs greater development? Or where information could be dealt with earlier/later? Structure looks at the way the story is delivered and whether it’s effective.
- Plot/Content: a fiction assessment would examine plot, whilst a nonfiction assessment would explore the content. Are these sound? Within the manuscript, how do these unfold and function? Are they coherent? Are they convincing? Will the reader invest in them?
- Characters: an examination of the characters and how well they work. Do they need to be more dimensional? Are they rounded enough? Are they believable? Are they motivated? Are there too many characters?
- Your Writing: a look at things like your use of Point of View (POV), clarity of expression, grammar, your use of tense, etc. The assessment won’t list every specific instance where something is wrong or needs work, but will give you examples so you know what to look out for when you revise.
- Your Punctuation: as with the above, you will be provided examples of things to look out for which you can address through revision.
- Title: does your title fit your manuscript?
I don’t need any of this – my [PARTNER/PARENT/SON OR DAUGHTER/FRIEND/FRIEND WHO IS A TEACHER/NEIGHBOUR/DOG] read it, and they think it’s great!
Well, this might be the case, but how comprehensive was the feedback? Was it as extensive as, ‘It’s good’ or something like that? How constructive was it? Were these readers in any way biased (one way or another) due to their relationship with you? Relying on people with whom you have any sort of relationship is always fraught with risk.
A fresh perspective from somebody who
- has no connection to you
- is trained to look at writing analytically
- does this for a living
is often the best way of identifying what does work and what doesn’t work in your manuscript.
However, before you do this, be prepared to hear anything. Lower your expectations. We all have them. We all want to believe that our manuscript is great! That it’s going to blow everybody over! That it is going to be the next bestseller! But even authors who’ve written umpteen drafts and delivered their manuscript to a publisher are going to get extensive structural feedback about what they need to address in revision. You cannot go into this thinking your manuscript is infallible, because you’re always going to be disappointed.
So if you’ve written a manuscript and are thinking about sending it out into the world, STOP. Do you really think that your manuscript is the best manuscript it could be? Or is it that you’re so immersed in it, you need fresh eyes to identify what you should be looking at next?
If that’s the case, a manuscript assessment could be the way to go.