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What is a Manuscript Assessment and Do I Need One?
What is a manuscript appraisal - The Writing Consultancy
Manuscript Assessments

What is a Manuscript Assessment and Do I Need One?

A manuscript assessment, also known as a manuscript appraisal, structural report or manuscript critique, is a report with, in our case, accompanying annotated notes on your manuscript.

When should I have a manuscript assessment?

The manuscript assessment is usually done in the early stages of the editing process and once the book is finished. You can request a report that covers just the opening chapters, like our opening chapters appraisal. This is helpful if you want to see how you are doing and whether you are on the right track, but, we do find that you will get the most benefit from a manuscript assessment if you have written one complete draft or at least know where you are heading with your plot and character journey.

What is a Manuscript Assessment - The Writing Consultancy

We always liken the manuscript assessment to the building process. It is best to get the foundation and structure of your novel in place and secure before you begin on the aesthetic work of line editing, copy editing or proofreading. If you edit first, structural issues may crop up in the edit, meaning that you have to make changes that will render the edit irrelevant. It may also mean that you will need to re-edit – never good for the finances or the morale!

What is included in a manuscript assessment?

Different consultancies will provide different versions of a manuscript assessment. In our case we will provide you with a detailed editorial report and an accompanying annotated version of your manuscript.

The Annotated Manuscript

The annotations will either be a close mark-up of the first 50 or so pages or will be comments throughout depending upon the kind of feedback needed. The markup and comments will give you specific examples of both the technical aspects of writing, such as point of view (POV) slips (head hopping), tense changes, consistent grammatical errors and areas where you need to show the reader something rather than tell them (show don’t tell/SDT). The idea behind the annotated manuscript is that you will have specific examples of what needs fixing and, most importantly, how to fix it.

The Report

The report is an in-depth look at all of the key areas that are essential to a successful novel. We are always open to more questions if there is something you would like the editor to look at in addition to the usual areas covered in the report. If there is anything you have struggled with or have previously had feedback on – for example notes from a literary agent, we are always more than happy to take a look at those areas.

Plot: As a matter of course the report will cover plot development and structure, looking out for any plot holes, inconsistencies, and aspects of plot that may not work.

Forward Momentum, Tension & Pace: Plot leads to, and links quite strongly with, the forward momentum of the novel and the pace and tension. This impacts the story itself and whether it is enough to draw the reader in and keep them engaged throughout.

Characterisation: The editor will look closely at characters and character arcs and development. This will also include the handling of dialogue and the depth and believability of character.

Narrative and Writing Style: This is an in-depth look at narrative and writing style, including any literary devices and techniques used such as prologues, flashbacks, foreshadowing, imagery, symbolism and point of view. This is the section where we will also bring up any points about tenses, narrative choice, handling of exposition and voice, where relevant.

If anything else outside of these areas crops up it will also be addressed. Everything we do is to ensure that the reader has a comprehensive report on exactly what they need to do and how to do it. Our aim is to get your manuscript to where it needs to be and let the story shine through.

How much should a manuscript assessment cost?

The cost of a manuscript assessment varies across consultancies. It is usually based on word count, the experience of the editors and the depth of the assessment that will be carried out. Our assessments range from £280 to around £800 or £900 depending upon length. Fees can stretch beyond that for a longer manuscript but we would usually chat with an author before going ahead with manuscripts that are particularly long (over 120,000 words).

Payment Plans

Some consultancies may offer payment plans. We offer payments in instalments which we can set up according to how the length of time over which you would like to stretch out the payments.

What should I look for in a manuscript assessment?


We always recommend taking a look at the profile of the editor who will be doing the work before going ahead with any editorial service. Most of our editors have worked with us for a long time and have been carefully chosen for their experience and their industry knowledge. We make sure our editors are working within the industry so that they are market-aware and know about the current trends and direction of the market.

Our editors are literary agents, creative writing tutors or published authors (or a combination of all three). That means they are up to date with the market, they are experienced and they know what is needed. Most of all they know how to teach it to you so that you can get your novel up to where it needs to be to make a success of it.

If you can, request testimonial or feedback from some of their previous authors to see how they are doing.

Follow Ups

We also recommend looking at whether there is the opportunity to follow up with the editor once you have gone through the report. It can be frustrating if you have gone through the report but have questions for the editor and have no way of getting in touch. We welcome questions from authors after they have received their report back. We suggest getting everything together in one email so that the editor can go through everything at once and get back to you with some detailed answers to your questions.

We do offer the option of setting up a Zoom call with some of our editors if you would prefer to have a chat about the report. This isn’t something we offer with all editors as some have quite full days in their day jobs so it is best to check this at the time of booking.


Finally make sure you are open-minded and ready to receive constructive criticism. We differ from your friends and family in that whilst we will say what we think works well, we will also dissect and analyse and come back to you with honest but constructive criticism.

Interested in one of our manuscript assessments? Fill out our form here to find out fees, editor details and timescales for having your manuscript assessed. If you would like to find out more about our editors you can have a look at their profiles here and you can read testimonial from our other authors here.

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