Manuscript assessment is a service provided by a writing professional.
The assessor will read the work closely and judge its quality and potential for publication.
The assessor will not just form an opinion, but will analyse the work, identify areas that need improvement,
and offer detailed constructive criticism accordingly, including giving advice about tailoring the work for a market.
A positive manuscript assessment report can serve the author well in their journey of completing their work and securing an agent or publisher.
Manuscript assessment is suitable for writers from all walks of life and for all levels of experience, from the writer just
starting out to the published author.
What makes a good manuscript assessor?
Manuscript assessment engages with the fundamental elements of writingstory, style, structure, clarity, character, plot, etc.
A good assessor, therefore, will have a strong technical understanding of these elements as well as a sound knowledge of what has been
published and is being published right now in specific genres.
Above all, however, a good assessor will be sensitive to an author's voice and intention.
So while the assessor must bring to the manuscript certain standards and knowledge, the assessor
must also strive to stand in the author's shoes and allow the author's voice to emerge and find its way to where
it wants to go, or help guide it to where it ideally would go. A good assessor doesn't want to impose things on a
text but rather will aim to recognize and help bring out its positive qualities while also shining light on any areas that need attention.
Proofreading usually occurs when an author is satisfied they've produced the final version of their work.
Proofreading aims to catch the usual suspects: incorrect spelling, questionable grammar and punctuation,
words left out or the wrong ones put in. It engages with other issues too: Are the key words spelled consistently throughout?
Is the work following appropriate style and formatting conventions? Do all the parts of the document and layout match up?
Do the sources match the citations? Is the text internally consistent and does it meet external standards, such as stipulated by a
publisher or as outlined in a style guide?
Copyediting does all the above yet goes deeper. It will look at the finer points of usage and grammar;
it will engage with the author's style and expression, offering suggestions for improvement where it can;
and it will be alive to issues of clarity and logic, and overall purpose. Copyeditors also do fact checking.
Editing goes deeper still. It can play an important part in the evolution of a piece of writing.
Is the author being clear and persuasive? Can the work's logic or argument or structure be improved?
Is the style uneven or in some way not suitable? Does the work actually achieve what it explicitly or implicitly
sets out to? An editor might urge an author to include more text, or indeed remove big chunks of text. Editing thus can
help an author improve their work substantially, and help steer it to the desired outcome, namely a professional, polished, published piece of writing.
What makes a good editor?
Naturally an editor needs a sharp eye, and long experience with writing and publishing and with all those
necessary technical matters (grammar, house style, genre conventions, narrative pull, etc.). A good editor will also
have a good ear and strong instinct; they will sense what the author is trying to achieve and work with them to bring it into being.
They'll also be hungry for story and argument and everything that good writing brings us. So they're both the objective reader and the ideal reader,
having high expectations of the work before them. A good editor is a staunch guide and mentor, and also a good collaborator and listener.