A common mistake writers make (and this includes published writers) is to send off a manuscript when it’s still half-baked. It’s an understandable temptation. Most of us are heartily sick of a lengthy project well before we can say it is finished.
Our advice to any writer is: If you want to get published, don’t show your manuscript to an agent or publisher until you have done to it everything you possibly can.
Once you have taken your manuscript as far as you can, an assessment by an experienced reader can provide you with the guidance to take it to the next level. We are amazed how often the very act of revealing our work to someone else helps us accept what we know needs to be changed but haven’t quite had the courage to face.
When we assess your manuscript we identify its strengths and weaknesses, and suggest areas that in our view need work before you send it away to an agent or publisher. In our report we address issues such as plot, subplots, character development, setting, structure, style, voice and pacing. We will give specific examples from your manuscript to illustrate our points.
What sets us apart from other manuscript assessment services is the constructive editorial advice we offer: concrete suggestions for rewriting and questions to stimulate the best possible rewrite of your work.
Working with Sarah was the best thing I could ever have done for my manuscript. I got great, constructive advice and critique as well as the kind of encouragement every budding writer needs when starting out. I would recommend working with Sarah Armstrong to anyone. In a word: fantastic. Jana Horarik
Sarah has opened my eyes to the ‘science’ of writing fiction. The editorial advice she provides is thoughtful and constructive and her detailed review and assessment of my lengthy first manuscript has helped me tighten plot and sharpen character motivation. I consider myself very fortunate to have Sarah in my corner. Roderic Grigson
If you know your manuscript is not yet finished but you would welcome some support, then our manuscript development service may be helpful.
You might need someone to say, ‘This is great. Keep going. Are you really clear on what your protagonist wants?’
Or we may ask, ‘How does Chapter 7 progress the plot? Or, how do you imagine your character will grow or transform over the course of the story? What are the major turning points for your main character? How do they get her closer to what she wants? (Or she might find out that she won’t get what she wants?) We might suggest you map the turning points and moments of crisis and conflict on a big sheet of butcher’s paper. Visualising things this way is often all it takes to appreciate where your plot is stalling.
If you are writing memoir, we might ask whether you have the sense of a question you are trying to answer. This is the equivalent in fiction of being very clear and concrete about the main character’s motivation and desire. And again, the butcher’s paper is a great way to chart the story you are trying to tell and see which incidents help answer that question. (And those which don’t.) You can move things around, play with structure and massage the narrative flow.
We can also comment in detail on something specific that is troubling you (such as structure or plot) and offer ideas, ask questions and give examples to help you in your next rewrite.
One technical point we often raise with writers is the use of scenes in your writing. Scenes are one of the most effective ways to draw a reader right into the action of your story (whether fiction or non-fiction). We will likely suggest you become familiar with the difference between scene, summary and reflection (and there will be a Writing Tip on this soon).
As writers ourselves, we understand that the feedback we receive when we are partway through a manuscript needs to be both honest and encouraging. This is what we will offer you. In all our dealings, we pride ourselves that our feedback and guidance is personal and authentic. We have been where you are now. The only difference between most published and unpublished writers is time, determination and the commitment to learn from experience.
In person or via email
We will email you your report. When you have received it, we are happy to have a conversation (by phone, Skype or in person) to answer any additional questions you may have.
The cost of a Manuscript Assessment or Manuscript Development support varies according to the length of your manuscript.
Up to 100,000 words $550
100,000 – 120,000 words $600
120,000 – 140,000 words $650
Please inquire for the cost for manuscripts longer than 140,000 words.