Benefit of a Manuscript Assessment

Over the past two months I’ve been gently revisiting the novel I have been attempting to write, as well as writing down the plot and structure for the rest of the trilogy. As mentioned previously, I sent my manuscript off for assessment, and finally word came back (and not all good naturally).

I have yet to make contact with any agent, as I want to be confident in the knowledge that my story is solid enough to be considered. I have had friends from writing degrees look at it and whilst the feedback has been favourable, I do fear it comes with a great deal of friendly bias. This is my first attempt at writing a fiction novel (and to make matters even harder I’m writing a trilogy) and so my concerns are naturally character development, transition from dialogue to prose, appropriate age range, and I suppose all the mistakes one makes when first attempting to write something on this scale, as well as whether or not I should write more considering it is the first installment of three books.

A tough and honest manuscript assessment is what I truly needed… and boy did I get it. The most important thing that needs working on is my style (really coming across as original). I think there are lots of elements that work, and many that don’t, as well as ideologies/philosophies that demand the reader to bend themselves, which the editor couldn’t quite do. That ultimately says I really need to simplify things more and spread it out across the trilogy. In fact, I started writing with just the one book in mind, which then evolved into three.

I did very much agree with all the constructive criticism the editor wrote in his five-page report assessment, and on that note I would greatly recommend any writer out there to spend the money for a manuscript assessment if possible! The Sci-fi/Fantasy market is a tough one. A short browse through a major bookstore alone clearly shows the competition out there. My style and imagery does needs much work and has to come across more vividly and be consistent throughout. I guess with this latest draft of my book I was holding back somewhat, rather than flowing freely with my expression and execution. Cue, I need to start reading a lot more. I have J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Smilmarillion and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials on hand to help me with that.

I have been doing writing exercises recently to focus more on characterisation and style, as well as working on much of the story structure. Some things have chimed with the report, which is great and then there are other aspects of course, which I am quite guilty of, as highlighted without reservation in the editor’s report. During this reflective period I did decide to take a character out of the story altogether, as she was the character that I found the hardest to carry through and in doing so I was neglecting another character to a great degree.
I have known that a lot of work was needed on this story, and have yet to work on the second book because I need to get this one right before proceeding. An objective view point and a raw assessment of the text is what was truly needed in order to allow for further progression. The editor’s report was extremely helpful and allowed me to realise some truths I attempted to bury.
I now have a stronger and more solidified game plan, which I know will help me take the story to the next level it deserves. I have taken the next two-weeks off work to relax, spend even more time with the family, and to read and write. I feel very optimistic and excited about what I’m going to produce next. It feels like a good kick up the rear end was exactly the oomph I needed to push things forward.
B. L. Crisp