The Aspiring Writer Series | writing tips and tools

The Aspiring Writer: Manuscript Assessment


This edition of The Aspiring Writer series, comes at the request on Instagram from two lovely writers @mariemcleanwrites ( and @alyssamackay ( Marie and Alyssa commented after I had posted about receiving my feedback from my latest manuscript assessment, asking if I’d blogged about manuscript assessments, and I hadn’t – until now!


What is a manuscript assessment?

A manuscript assessment, also known as a structural critique, is a service provided to writers and authors who are after an objective and critical opinion of their work in progress. A manuscript assessment focuses mainly on the structure of your novel covering things such as: plot, character, voice, narrative style, point-of-view, as well as the credibility of your story. A manuscript assessor will cast an experienced and detailed eye over your story, and be able to assess what stage your manuscript is at, and also how well it will be received by readers, and potential agents and publishers.


Why get a manuscript assessment?

A manuscript assessment helps you hone your craft as a writer, strengthening your skills, improving your style, and tightening your writing. It will bring clarity and direction on where to take the next draft of your work in progress.

And although it’s not compulsory to have your manuscript professionally assessed prior to submitting to agents and publishers, for those serious about having their work published, it’s a step in the right direction.

With so much competition, and publishing houses commissioning less, It is harder than ever to get a book picked up for publication. By ensuring you are putting forward the most polished version of your novel, you are giving yourself the best chance of sparking interest in your work (and of course the story has to be great too!). For those setting down the self-publishing path, a manuscript assessment is an essential step in the process.


What will a manuscript assessment give you?

  • Your assessor will provide you with an objective review of your work, pointing out any structural issues and plot holes that you may not be able to see.
  • You will be provided with a comprehensive report outlining the strengths and weaknesses of your work, and most assessments often include detailed notes and edits throughout your manuscript.
  • The assessor will also be able to offer feedback, advice, and constructive recommendations on how to improve your manuscript, to make it the best it can be.
  • Every manuscript assessment service is slightly different, so do your research and be clear on what you will be getting for your money.


When to get a manuscript assessment?

You will find that different assessors and agencies offer a variety of services. From analysing your synopsis, critiquing the first 10,000 words, right through to assessing your entire manuscript. When you decide to get your manuscript assessed is entirely your decision. At the very least, I would recommend having your manuscript assessed prior to submitting to an agent or publisher.

For me, the best time is when I’ve done as much as I can with the manuscript, which I’m coming to realise is around third to fourth draft stage. So far, I’ve had two manuscripts assessed. The first, was when I was a naive, young writer finishing my first draft and thinking it was, of course, amazing! I sent it off ready to receive feedback saying the same, and let’s just say I was mildly devastated with the feedback. Okay, I was completely gutted! Looking back now, I cringe at my wide-eyed innocence, but, it was a great learning experience; now I know first drafts are far from ready for others’ eyes!

The manuscript I had assessed most recently was at third draft stage, and the main reason I opted to have it assessed, was that I was stuck with a few issues and needed feedback on the direction to take my story. And it has certainly done that!


How much will it cost?

This depends on a number of factors including the experience of your assessor, what they provide in their assessment, the length of your manuscript, and what specific requirements you have. My best advice is to first figure out how much you are willing/able to put into your novel, then, do your research. Start with your states writers’ centre, the freelance editors’ network, or simply google ‘manuscript assessment services’. The Australian Writers’ Centre also offers a manuscript assessment service.


Things to remember

  • Choose someone with experience in your genre.
  • Choose someone reputable and with many years experience.
  • Be sure you are clear on what your assessor offers as part of their service.
  • Be sure to submit your manuscript according to the specifications provided by your assessor, and if you are unsure – just ask.
  • Take all feedback on-board; the good, and the bad. And, yes there will be things you don’t want to hear, but remember, everything is working towards making your novel the best it can be.
  • A manuscript assessment is not a copy edit or proof-read – that comes later. (Although most will include general copy edits).