Today I have romantic fantasy author Louise Cusack visiting. Not only is Louise an award winningfantasy author whose Shadow Through Timetrilogy is about to be released by Pan Macmillan’s eBook arm MomentumBooks. She is also a highly successfulmanuscript developer, writing mentor and tutor with several clients publishedand many more winning prestigious competitions.
Louise is going to tell us a bit about her manuscript assessment service, but first, don’t forget – if you haven’t already done so – to read the two posts below and comment for a chance to win a book by Ruthie Knox and a book by Jennifer Weiner. Only a couple of days left to enter both.
Getting serious: Manuscript Assessment
There comes a time in every unpublishedwriter’s career when they wonder what they have to do to get across the line,to get a publisher or an agent to take them on. They might have been writing for years, doing well in contests, and havecrit buddies who love their work, but still… no contract.
So what can they do?
Well if this is you and you can’tsee a way forward, you might decide to give up your dream of being published byHarlequin or Berkley or Avon and go with a smaller ePublisher or even selfpublish, not realising how challenging it is to drum up sales when you don’thave the huge distribution machinery of a big International publisher behindyou. And while there are the rare,celebrated authors who rise from self-publishing obscurity to becomeInternational best sellers, the vast majority of authors who have long,successful careers have been published by big publishing houses. So if you also want to go the traditionalroute, what can you do to lift the quality of your work to a standard that willexcite publishers and agents?
One way to give your career ajump-start is to have a manuscript assessment by an industry professional, andthe Australian Writers Marketplace amongother sites will give you a range of assessors to choose from. Always query them first to see what you getfor your money, but to give you an overview I’ll tell you what I do, so you cansee if an assessment might help you. Icharge a touch under $400 for a sixty thousand word manuscript, and my clientsconsider that to be an inexpensive way to help them bridge the gap between wherethey are and where they want to be: signing a contract that delivers thousandsor even hundreds of thousands of dollars if they can create a novel publisherswill bid on. Every business spends moneyon development, and career writers are no different.
A good assessment can help youeliminate the craft issues that are holding you back, and clarify andstrengthen plot structure and characterisation. Every manuscript is different, but the number one flaw I see inmanuscripts is lack of tension (most often caused by a goal/motivation/conflictstructure that is unclear or not compelling). Other problems I’ve diagnosed in the 150 manuscripts I’ve assessed arestructural flaws that affect tension or pacing, characterisation weaknesses(either due to viewpoint control issues, lack of internalisations or clichédreactions) or problems with dialogue, visuals, pacing or grammar. The most heartbreaking are manuscripts thathave been beautiful written with faultless grammar, but have either no viewpointcontrol, predictable plots or clichéd characters. On the surface these manuscripts shine andtheir authors don’t see the critical flaws that are stopping them beingpublished, so I find it very satisfying to help these talented writers uncovertheir Achilles Heel and offer direction towards overcoming it.
Knowing what isn’t working ishalf the battle. Having clear directionon how to fix the problem is vitally important as well, and that not only helpsyou edit to make your novel more saleable, it also makes you mindful of that craftissue in the next story, ensuring that each future draft is stronger.
If you’d like to check out mywebpage on manuscriptdevelopment or the rest of my writingtips website you may find something that helps you turn your good storyinto a great story, and my New Year’swish for you is that your manuscript snags the attention of a jaded publisheror agent searching for the next big thing.
Remember: Luck happens when opportunity and preparation meet. Abig contract can happen, but you needto work to make it happen for you!
Thanks Louise – sounds really helpful! I’m curious, have any of you tried a manuscript assessor? If so, how did it work for you?