I was lucky enough to win a manuscript assessment recently. Aside from obviously being excited I was very interested to know what this would include. You see for many years I have belonged to critique groups both physically with the Eastwood Hills Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) and online with Creative Kids Tales. In those critique groups I have learned to give and receive feedback and I always endeavor to help my fellow writers as much as I am able, with comments about the story as a whole and on spelling and grammatical errors as well. So the question which automatically came to mind was, 'What is the difference between a good/thorough critique and a manuscript assessment aside from the obvious cost? What makes a manuscript assessment worthwhile and does this diminish the value of critique groups?' So I decided to ask an expert. Here to answer those questions is our own fearless leader, Georgie Donaghey.
Thanks for talking to me today, Georgie.
Q: So let's get straight to the point, What is the difference between a thorough critique and a manuscript assessment?
That is an excellent question and, in essence, the two can actually be the same thing. Critiques given in the way you've described are intended to be a two-way process where participants receive feedback on their manuscript in exchange for providing feedback on work by others. By both being critiqued and offering a critique you can learn lots and increase your skills in the craft. The downside to a critique group is that a variety of opinions which can sometimes be conflicting may result in confusion for the author. This is particularly the case if those giving feedback lack sufficient expertise to help you take solid steps forward. I have been in groups where the reader only offered praise and nothing really constructive. While this is flattering I know my writing can improve in many areas so for me this wasn't really beneficial. The same applies to feedback from family and friends. While this may be nice, family and friends may not give you the necessary feedback you need to grow as a writer. Plus, the last thing a potential publisher wants to hear is how much your family loved your manuscript and telling them this is harmful.
A manuscript assessment from those with the relevant experience in the industry is more likely to offer the qualified, gloves off, no holds barred information you need. Feedback offered by a good assessor will vary, depending on how well developed the manuscript presented is. Depending on the provider, an assessment may view the story from the perspective of a reader, editor and perhaps even a writer. It may comment on voice and overall strengths, show you where any weaknesses are, assist with structure, help show where the story is lacking and offer basic advice on grammar and spelling. Most importantly, a good assessor won't be afraid to kill your darlings if needed.
Q: What should we expect to get for our money if we take up a manuscript assessment?
A good assessment will provide a detailed report and sufficient information that you can take away and use to improve your story. Whether you wish to send work to a trade publisher or not, you want to create something worthy of presenting to readers and that is what your assessor wants for you too.
Q: What is a line edit?
The definition of a line edit can vary and often depends on what has been negotiated when a writer engages an editor to help with their work. It may look at finer points of style, voice and syntax, check for unnecessary repetition in both wording and information, scoop up mistakes relating to facts and specialist terms, find flaws that don't ring true in terms of time, place or character, (all of which can be missed in a structural edit) and, in amongst all this, should also correct errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Q: It was quite common at one time to hear publishers tell aspiring authors not to include and even not to get a manuscript assessment done. Why do you think that might have been the case? Is this still the case? What has changed?
The reason most publishers would tell aspiring authors not to include assessments is because they have enough experience to know what they're looking at and won't want to spend too much of their very limited time reading anything more than they need to. This hasn't changed all that much but there are some publishers whose submission guidelines invite people to send assessments.
Let's face it, it's getting harder and harder to get published. If you can present a polished manuscript that has strong text, structure and flow, the publisher will immediately know you are serious about your craft and are dedicated to gaining publication. If you advise in your cover letter that you have had it professionally assessed this may show that you are serious about writing willing to work hard to improve your work. The most important thing to remember though, is to follow the submission guidelines to the letter and don't send something they've not asked for.
Q: Does CKT offer manuscript assessments?
Absolutely. Our assessment service has been running for the last couple of years and in that time we have assisted many authors.
Our team prides themselves on providing vital feedback regarding a manuscript's plot, structure, characters and voice so that you may improve your work. We identify weaknesses, point out strengths, analyse language appropriateness in relation to the intended age of the reader and comment on basic formatting, grammar and spelling issues.
Every author receives a feedback sheet and detailed report from a qualified team, not just one person.
Our assessors are qualified editors, published authors and avid readers of the children's genre.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add on the topic as an author who has both received and now offers manuscript assessments?
I'm very excited to be able to share with you that from 2018 we will be offering Author Personal Training – More than Mentorship.
Since offering our Manuscript Assessment Service we've realised how much people would benefit from tailored one-on-one guidance. Our new service will help not only develop your manuscript but will upskill your existing talents so you can become empowered to get those publication doors opening.
Our personal trainers will begin by assessing your writing and giving feedback in the most appropriate manner depending on where you are at in your learning. You will gain from their expertise and experience. We will work with you to help you fully develop your manuscript. During the process you will increase your knowledge of the craft and gather tools to use through any of your creative journeys. The skills you gain will stay with you for life.
You can find out more about our coaching service from January 2018.
Thanks again for your time Georgie.
Well there you have it everyone, the difference between a manuscript assessment and a thorough critique and surprise announcement of yet another way to improve your writing to boot. So based on Georgie's comprehensive answers and as I suspected, there is a time for everything and none need exist without the others.
Artelle Lenthall can be found on Facebook at Artelle Lenthall and also blogs at www.journeygirlontheroadtopublication.com