And if that manuscript of yours (or mine) isn’t quite cutting the mustard, where all the feedback is generally encouraging, but there’s still no cigar, who you gonna call? A manuscript assessment service, that’s who.
A good report will not only highlight weaknesses and inconsistencies, it will also tell you what you’re doing right. Objective feedback can put your work under a microscope, which is both enlightening and disconcerting. Best of all, you have consider the feedback before you without the opportunity to argue your case and play 20 justifications. (No, my character has to play with a yo-yo at crime scenes because it’s a metaphor for how she keeps an investigation going.)
Reports do not always make comfortable reading – I’ve had three, over the years, for different books. Each taught me something about my writing and something about myself. Those same comments that had me coughing derisively (try it – it’s a real skill) later received nods of approval when I sat down again to review the evidence.
Summary feedback will focus on technique, characterisation, plotting, pace, description and dialogue. Which is a lot to fit into one report. Illustrative examples will help drive the points home. And then there’s the manuscript mark-up. The right comments, perfectly placed, can act as a pivot point to lever your work over a hurdle. Those eureka moments really can make all the difference.
Although it can seem expensive – unless you’re fortunate enough to receive a bursary – it’s also an investment in your craft. And it may be your first opportunity to get feedback from a professional with experience in the industry. (Incidentally, always ask for the organisation’s background and track record before you make any decision.)
An assessment of your manuscript might shatter your dreams and leave you running screaming to the hills. Or, duly acted upon, it just might be the difference between ‘no thank you’ and ‘yes please’.