Authors often comes to us, asking what means they could employ to improve their manuscript.
There’s editing, which would look at the manuscript in terms of structure or copy (or a combination of both).
There are also workshops, although they’re designed more to improve the writer’s skills, which they will then apply to their manuscript.
A lesser-known but equally valid means is a manuscript assessment.
Usually, the authors stare blankly back at us. We try to explain that the assessment is like a book report. Usually, they still frown at us.
Here’s a basic breakdown of what you’re going to see in a manuscript assessment:
- A look at the title: does it work? Does it encapsulate the book? Is the title too common? Is it already in use? You may not have considered any of this, married to a title you thought was perfect. Or you might have a placeholder, and you’re unsure what title would encapsulate the book.
- Point of View: does your manuscript’s POV work? Are you flitting in and out of different POVs? How do POVs work anyway?
- Plot / Content: if it’s a novel, how does the plot work? Is it sound? Does it build the story as intended? Does it introduce stakes? If it’s nonfiction, does the content communicate its message? Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, does the writing achieve what it sets out to do? If not, why not? What can the author look at in terms of improving it?
- Structure: is the information delivered in the best way possible? Could it work better a different way? Is it underwritten or overwritten? Does it build logically?
- Punctuation, Grammar, Spelling: self-explanatory – a look at what you might be doing wrong and an explanation on how to correct it.
- Characterisations: in regards to a novel, a review of the characters. Are they well-formed? Are they believable and motivated?
- Market: where does your book sit in the market? If you haven’t considered this, the assessment can help you identify where you should be pitching your manuscript, or how to reframe it so you can place it in the market.
- Conclusion: summing up your manuscript.
Now, obviously, the assessment won’t cite every single instance of an issue. For example, if your POV is jumping around, the assessment won’t list every place it’s happening. It will explain how it’s jumping around and give you a handful of examples, educating you on what to look out for. That’s the same case with anything that might be occurring regularly.
The plot/content and structural feedback will be much more specific about what a manuscript needs. It can also open an author’s eyes to what they’ve been – or become – blind to. But that’s understandable. After working on a manuscript for so long, it’s normal that authors will lose objectivity. That’s where fresh eyes help.
And that’s why a manuscript assessment is invaluable. It’s great to get feedback from family, friends, etc., but a manuscript assessment is written by somebody who is trained to spot these issues and articulate methods to correct them.
A manuscript assessment is a priceless and an inexpensive insight.
Postscript: Don’t forget that our Eggcellent Manuscript Assessment Competition is on!