Manuscript Assessment

A sample of our How's My Driving? report – a clear steer on your work-in-progress

Please note: This is a sample report, designed to give you an idea of the structure and content of our reports. Every novel is different, though, and our readers will always try to tailor their report to best serve your particular needs. If there's something you'd like your reader to pay especial attention to, just let us know when you submit your manuscript.

 

Overview

The reader will outline the key points their report will cover

I think you have the beginnings of an interesting idea here. There’s certainly a strong concept at the heart of the novel, and it’ll be interesting to see how you can develop this. It’s essential, though, that the worldbuilding is done properly, and that early issues with character and perspective are ironed out as you continue.

 

Report

The reader will look at what you have so far; the strengths and weaknesses of your structure, characters and plot, as well as the concept as a whole. They may touch upon your writing style where relevant, but they won’t concentrate on that – this is a work-in-progress, after all, and all first drafts are a bit rough around the edges

Overall, I enjoyed reading these pages. Dystopia is certainly a well-trodden genre when it comes to YA literature, but I feel that your concept does have the potential for a fresh spin on it. I really liked the idea of using the 2011 riots as the starting point – this gave a real plausibility to the novel, and the idea of an alternative history – or an alternative future, as it were – where, ten years later, the riots are still going on, felt unique and compelling. And the idea of using former teen gang members as undercover agents for the Met also felt like a plotline with plenty of potential for action – almost a kind of Hunger Games meets 24.

Where the concept really falls down, currently, is in the world-building. You say in Wade’s opening monologue that London has been burning since 2011, but how would there be anything left? I do wonder how likely it is that things could have got so out of control, with every infrastructure destroyed – and this too seems unevenly realised; the fact that there’s no tv, or rail transport, but electricity and water supplies seem to be unaffected, in London at least? What are ‘The Chaos’ actually fighting for in these nightly clashes with police – are they really just randomly setting fire to things? Presumably there’s little left to be looted at this stage. I certainly didn’t feel as if any of the characters were in immediate danger, and there isn’t a huge deal of tension built up in the early pages, which seems a shame given the dramatic content of the novel. You really need to get that sense of peril established as early as possible for the later action to be successful.

I enjoyed the contrast between Wade’s life in the Met and Arwen’s experiences on her family’s Welsh farm. There’s a nice difference between their voices and together they offer two sides to the crisis – with some development, this could work well in painting a really rounded picture of what life is like in this post-riot (well, ongoing-riot!) world. Because Arwen’s day-to-day life is more insular and less directly affected by the crisis than Wade’s, I felt like her world was established much more successfully. The issues she has – difficulty contacting the outside world, worries about the lack of medication available for her mother – felt clear to me, and I understood her motivations and the kind of person she is. It would be great to see Wade developed to the same degree, especially as he’s the first voice we encounter.

To that end, I felt like the balance between the two voices was just about right so far. You bring in Arwen at the right time – we’ve had a couple of chapters getting to know Wade and understanding the situation, and it felt like a good moment to flip to Arwen for a different perspective. I would say perhaps we don’t stay with her for quite long enough in that first chapter – I would have liked to know more at that point, and I think doing so would more firmly establish her as a main character in her own right; as it stands, I think we assume that she’s in someway connected to Wade, and are perhaps waiting to find out how.

 

Synopsis Review

Here the reader will discuss your planned outline for the rest of the novel; any potential misgivings they have or plotlines they think should be brought to the fore. They’ll advise whether you should power on with this draft, or whether it’s worth having a rethink at this stage about the story or structure

I like the idea that Wade and Arwen’s paths will cross in London, and the plot points you’ve set out for making that happen are solid and believable. Arwen’s dilemma regarding her mother’s medication has real potential for being a moving and believable motivation for her journey to London, one which could really get the reader on her side. Likewise, the events which lead to Wade being put back in the field, spying on his old gang, feel dramatic and with a real sense of escalating tension – exactly what you want going into that final third.

I’m not sure, though, that the introduction of a whole new character at that late stage would work quite so well. I think you need to have a real think about what Rik is bringing to the story – would it benefit from having him more involved, earlier on? Or would it be better to pare down his role, and to focus on the two main voices? Likewise, I enjoyed the idea that Arwen would bring Kitty along to London with her, and she feels like a good foil for Arwen – her recklessness and daring will be useful in driving some of the plot points you have planned (on which note: would it not make more sense for it to be Kitty’s idea to go back with Rik to his house, rather than Arwen’s? That feels more natural the way they’re currently drawn as characters – we’d probably need to see a bit more carelessness in Arwen earlier on for this to be convincing, otherwise).

I’d also be interested to see more of Arwen and Kitty’s journey to London – in your outline, it seems as if we’d see them set off, and then the next chapter, they’ve arrived in the city. This feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity – it’d be really interesting to see the things they encounter on their way, and a good chance for you to really add to your world-building: Are the roads policed? What kind of state are the bigger towns and smaller cities in? Something you touch on early in Arwen’s narrative is how distrustful (and sometimes outright hostile) older people are towards teenagers now (perhaps understandably!). This would presumably cause Arwen and Kitty some problems on their journey, which could make for some nice dramatic moments.

Finally, I loved the idea of Baxter as a mole. I think you’ll need to be careful about leaving enough clues early on for this to be a satisfying reveal, without giving the game away too early. You’ve laid the groundwork for this to be very hurtful to Wade – I felt their early interactions around the Nest felt natural and convincing, and their friendship is very believable – so if you can continue upping that ante in the next section, this could be a great twist.

 

Summary

Your reader will advise on the next steps; what to look out for as you continue writing and who your audience might be

I think you have a good idea here – keep going! But by putting the work in now establishing your world and your characters, you’re going to save yourself some time in the next draft. Overall, you seem to have a solid plot mapped out, with some great points for tension – so it’s definitely worth making sure that the sections in between really help to ramp that up and make the twists even more satisfying.

Good luck!