What if you don’t like the assessor’s report?

You can’t afford to be precious. It’s just possible you’re not a genius – and even more possible that you’re a talented writer with heaps of promise but still inexperienced with technique and presentation. Don’t be too discouraged by a disappointing report: read it through, then put it and your manuscript aside for a while. Then go back to them and take a long, cool look. Has the report recommended stringent cutting? Well, this is the most common finding, especially with new writers who put far too much detail into their work. Does the report suggest getting rid of your favourite, most beloved character? Grit your teeth and try the story without him or her. If it still holds up, the assessor was right. Perhaps you forgot the writer’s basic rule: show, don’t tell. If so, get ready to re-write. Did the assessor find your plot hackneyed or contrived, or the book a slavish copy of an established writer’s work? Cut loose and find your own voice. Are there problems with your layout/presentation, or with grammar, spelling, punctuation? Break out your reference books and use all the online sources and work on these aspects until you’re perfect. (No, you can’t rely only on your computer’s spell checker, although you must use it.)

A report from a reputable service should be sympathetic and constructive, even if it is ultimately disappointing. If after cool reflection you honestly feel that the assessment completely missed the point of your work, or the assessor was inexperienced in your chosen genre/subject or not in sympathy with it, then you should contact the assessment service and discuss your concerns. But again, don’t be precious; listen to all comments and don’t take criticism personally. A valuable tip is to put the manuscript aside for 6 months while you get on with new work – it’s amazing how many problems leap to the eye when you come fresh to the manuscript after a long break. If necessary you can arrange for a second report from a different assessor. In extreme cases, you can report the matter to your Society of Authors or another professional body.