One of the questions I’m often asked by novice writers is, ‘What is a manuscript’? Fair question, if you aren’t familiar with the industry lingo. A ‘manuscript’ is another name for the document (eg MS Word document or PDF) that will become your novel.
When preparing to publish your work, there are several different assessments that should be considered. A ‘manuscript assessment’ covers things like the story’s structure, how the characters develop through the story, how the plot plays out, pace, setting, consistency, strengths and weaknesses. It does not cover things like grammar, spelling and punctuation.
So why have your manuscript assessed, I hear you ask? Because, how the words on the page appear to the author can be very different to how they read to the audience. For example, you may be writing a historical fiction novel set in Barcelona, Spain. You – the author – have been there. You know the El Born district is an old area within the city, the laneways are narrow, streets cobbled, buildings age and people dry their clothes on a clothesline outside their apartment windows overhanging the pedestrians below. Your story reads:
Catelina walked quickly down the passeig, anxious to deliver the message entrusted to her. She ducked and weaved her way through people until she reached her destination before the weather turned.
You know that in 1635 the passeig was a residential area, Catelina ducked and weaved her way around the excrement and rubbish the residents emptied into the street, that children played in the unmade road, washing drying formed a canopy above and varying aromas assaulted her nose.
A manuscript assessor will read be able to point out what detail is missing. Can the reader see the setting? Is it clear or a little confusing? Does it set the desired tone?
Here’s an example of another way to write that passage.
Walking quickly down the dim passeig, Catelina jumped small puddles and avoided the scraps that lay in the street, thrown down from the crowded residences. The narrow path, bordered by tall homes, threw shadows on the bedding and clothing that whipped and rustled overhead in the blustery weather.
What To Expect
A manuscript assessment will give you an unbiased view of your work. It will help shed light on what works and what doesn’t or what needs more work/consideration. You will receive a written report that covers (but is not limited to):
- story structure
- character development
- plot development
- strengths and weaknesses
- general ‘feel’ (tone)
- general feedback and recommendations.
The timeline for assessment is generally 4 – 6 weeks, however, this will be discussed when submission is made.
When submitting a manuscript for assessment, please include a 1-page synopsis. The document should be in the following format:
Format – MS Word or Google Docs (not a PDF)
Font – Arial, Times New Roman or Garamond (preferred) 12 point
Normal Margins – 2.54cm top, bottom, left and right.
Header – Manuscript title and author’s name
Footer – page number
To find out more and set up a meeting,