So what is a manuscript assessment anyway?

Yes, the blog is back!

To borrow a phrase from the late great Terry Pratchett, I ATEN’T DED. I’ve just been busy. But now I have a free Monday morning and something interesting to write about, so let’s dive on in!

The topic is manuscript assessments. You may have noticed that I recently updated my website with a page about manuscript assessments, a skill I’ve learned thanks to the wonderful Connie Berg of Sunshine Press. So the question is, what exactly is a manuscript assessment, anyway? It sounds like some kind of a test, or a checklist for authors to make sure that their book meets a list of criteria for publication…but in fact, it’s a lot more useful than that.

What is a manuscript assessment?

A manuscript assessment is a tool to help an author get objective, constructive and detailed feedback on, and pointers for revising, a completed work—fiction, non-fiction, short, long, manuscript assessors work on them all. It’s a global analysis of a text that considers how all the parts of it fit together, which parts work and why, and which need more development to make the whole text cohere.

A manuscript assessment will give you feedback on every aspect of your manuscript:

  • plot and structure.
  • characters and their relationships.
  • point of view.
  • dialogue, description and exposition.
  • style elements and use of language.

This feedback usually comes in the form of a written report of between 5 and 10 pages, and more detailed individual notes about specific points—often these are handwritten onto a hard copy of your manuscript, at least if your assessor has decent handwriting!

What a manuscript assessment is not

A manuscript assessment is not a statement that your work is ready to be published (though your assessor might give you that feedback if they believe it to be true!). That, after all, can only ever be your decision. Nor is getting your manuscript assessed a guarantee of publication—publishers won’t care if you tell them that your manuscript has been professionally assessed, as their editors will still have to look at the work on its own merits and see how it matches with their lists and their needs. Finally, getting a manuscript assessment is not the same thing as having your manuscript edited or proofread (though the good news is that it’s cheaper than either)—a manuscript assessor will give you feedback on language use and issues such as unnecessary repetition, patterns of comma misuse and so on, but will not check for errors or correct typos.

So why invest in a manuscript assessment if it doesn’t guarantee publication?

Every writer I know wants to be a better writer (and to sell books, of course, but that’s a given). A manuscript assessment is a tool for helping you to improve your writing, because of course, everything that you learn from this assessment carries forward to the work you do on your next manuscript, too. It isn’t an investment in the success or failure of a particular manuscript: it’s an investment in yourself as a writer—professional development, if you like. And that’s always worth it.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a series of posts on the various things a manuscript assessor looks for when writing a report on a manuscript. First up is plot and structure, so join me next Monday for some fun with narrative!


About kleditor

Editing services and academic writing.
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