"What service do I need?" Part 1: Manuscript Assessment
If you are a veteran writer, you probably know which level of editing your manuscript needs before you reach out to an editor. But if you are struggling with the difference between a manuscript assessment and a developmental edit, or a substantive edit and a copy edit, you are not alone. I'll come clean -- in writing those descriptions on my SERVICES page, I did some research (I love research). I wanted to make certain I described my services using my industry’s consensus as to what those services entail. The first five websites I went to for the definitions of the different levels of editing provided five slightly different definitions. In fact, the more I researched, the more confused I became.
Ultimately, I defined my services in accordance with editorial services descriptions from the website of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), of which I am a member. Through this blog, I would like to go into greater detail about each of these services. Let’s start at the very beginning….
Manuscript assessment. Manuscript critique. Manuscript evaluation. These terms are often used interchangeably. But there are subtle differences.
To my mind, critiques are usually the purview of community writing groups. Small gatherings of men and women who love to write, and are typically hoping to be published, read and critique each other’s work on a weekly or monthly basis. A good writing group, where everyone shares similar hopes and are at similar skill levels, can be fun, informative, and genuinely helpful.
An evaluation is typically done at no charge by your mother or your best friend who, of course, will love your work and recommend you don’t change a word. But seriously, the best way to get free evaluations of the quality of your work is to use beta readers. Be picky when choosing your beta readers, though; the quality of the feedback is directly proportional to the objectivity of the reader.
I offer manuscript assessments. With an assessment, you will get a report detailing your manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. I will comment on the appropriateness of the style, tone, pace, voice, structure, organization, consistency, and thoroughness of the work. The areas of assessment will vary depending upon the category of the work (fiction or nonfiction, for example). No line editing or revisions are done at this point. When asking for an assessment, take time to tell me what areas of the manuscript you are concerned about and where you would most like me to focus my attention. You can ask for an assessment of just one or two particular aspects of the work (for instance, character development), if that’s all you need at that time.
The main difference between a manuscript assessment and a developmental edit is primarily in what I supply to you. I will explain that further in my next post.